LAURINBURG – More than 100 people braved a bitter cold morning to join a march to honor the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The march is in its 27th year for the Scotland County Chapter of the NAACP. Marchers of all ages and races braved 21-degree weather and a stiff breeze, for just over a tenth of a mile from the former Popes department store parking lot to Bright Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church walking, singing praise and worship music and talking amongst themselves.
Most of the marchers agreed that they participated, not only to mark King’s birthday, but to continue to keep equality in the forefront of the conversation.
Delores Harrington believes the event is about community.
“It’s freedom of speech to get out and enjoy and be with people that love and want to be out here,” Harrington said. “It’s just not about Martin Luther King’s birthday. It’s about all of us communicating and getting together and showing love for America.”
Harrington and Veronica McLaughlin have participated in the event for the last five years, and Carmen Hicks has joined the march for nearly 10 years. The three women walked together as friends and as supporters of equality.
“It makes me feel free [marching], and going to Bright Hopewell and hearing the different speakers, it just makes me feel free,” McLaughlin said.
Hicks believes the march is more relevant now than ever.
“In times like we’re in right now, we need this as American citizens, white, black everybody, we need unity,” she said. “There’s so much hatred and bigotry and racism, and we need to come together. Love. When we die, we all the same blood, and we’re all going to the same heaven.”
Others who marched joined the event to honor not only King but all who fought for equality. Sixty-nine-year-old Josephine Gibson showed up in her wheelchair.
“They gave their lives so we could have the right to freedom, not only me but for everybody all over the world. I thank God for it,” Gibson said. “[King] gave his life just like Jesus. He didn’t have to do it, but he did it because of love.”
Gibson has participated in every march that has taken place over the years.
Following the march, a standing room only service was held at Bright Hopewell. Several speakers touched on the importance of keeping King’s work alive.
NAACP President Herman Tyson opened the service with a reminder that King was “a man of who gave his life that you and I might be free.”
Tyson also stressed the fact that the fight to maintain equality is ongoing.
“We are still living in controversy. As we commemorate the life of Dr. King, 45 [President Trump] is trying to prove to us that he is not racist,” Tyson said.
The guest speaker for the morning was Darrell “B.J.” Gibson of Nazareth Missionary Baptist Church in Wagram. Gibson also touched on the fight to continue the work of equality with the topic of his sermon: If Tomorrow Could Talk.
Gibson read from II Chronicles 20: 14 in which the Prophet Jahaziel warns King Jehoshaphat and Jerusalem that the armies of Moab and Ammon would descend upon the city and outnumber them but that they should not be afraid because the battle had already been won as long as they had faith in God.
According to Gibson that was a conversation with the future. Gibson told those gathered that he believed that King also had conversations with the future, but that they could not celebrate the meaning of MLK Day without looking back to appreciate what took place in the past.
“There are many who don’t want to look at yesterday because many of those who lived before my time and had to endure the times of the civil rights era those who had to live through the times of Jim Crow, those who had to live in the times that you were treated as second class or no class citizens, sometimes don’t want to look back,” Gibson said. “But I want to say to you, that you can’t really appreciate where you are if every now and then, you don’t look back at where the Lord has brought you from.”
Gibson said that he is grateful that his generation and others did not have to endure the indignities and humiliation that former generations did under segregation that happened even here in Scotland County
“Let me take a moment from my generation to yours and say thank you for going through what you went through because you went through it, we don’t have to go through it today. We celebrate you,” he said. “But let me say today to those of you who are older, you cannot get in the place where you are today and forget where you come from. Even though they may let us live in Westwood … Deercroft … Scotch Meadows you’ve got to remember your friends and your bothers and your neighbors who are still in Washington Park the ones who still live in Carolina Park.”
He thanked God for average citizens who made a stand for what was right, those upon whose actions Rev. King built his leadership and the push for civil rights: Rosa Parks, the Little Rock nine –students who dared to enroll at Little Rock Central High School in 1957 in Arkansas, and the students who staged sit-ins at Woolworth’s lunch counters to protest segregation in Greensboro in1960. The protests led to the department store changing its policy on segregation.
Looking to the future, Gibson told the assembly that there would still be trouble but as longs as they showed up, had faith and positioned themselves for work like King Jehoshaphat and voted consciously, trouble would pass.
“We’ve got to elect folk that have like minds. They may not look like us, but they out to show up more than just election time,” he said. “We’ve got to show up at the polls. We’ve got to show up at the board meetings. We’ve got to show up at schools. We got to show up at city hall. And when we show up, you ain’t got to fight; you ain’t got to act the fool, but if you show up the Lord will.”
Continuing to look to the future Gibson called the children and teens who were at the service to the alter and asked city and county leaders come and pray for them and the youth of the county.
“I don’t believe Scotland County has seen its best days. I know many of y’all don’t believe, but when I look into the eyes of these young people I know there is hope,” Gibson said.
To the youth he said, “Just because everything around you looks like it’s dying don’t you believe that.”
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169