Church celebrates Civil Rights movement during annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March
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“Moving the Dream Forward” was the theme Sunday during the 32nd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March in Ann Arbor. Amid hymns of “We Shall Overcome,” and “This Little Light,” a joyful crowd of about 70 marched from the Washtenaw County Courthouse at 101 E. Huron St. to the Second Baptist Church at 850 Red Oak Road.
The church organized the march to recognize the birthday of Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was born Jan. 15, 1929, but also to remind the community there is still a long way to go.
“My thing is just that people will recollect the impact that Dr. King had for freedom, for justice and, prayerfully, that something is stirred within us to continue that movement,” Pastor Mark Lyons said.
The program began in the morning with a special church service dedicated to King, including speeches by U.S. Rep. John Dingell, (D-Dearborn) and keynote speaker, Dr. Eric Tremayne Mayes.
Mayes is the executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund, Michigan, and was the co-captain of the 1997 University of Michigan National Championship football team. He called on the congregation to fulfill the potential within them.
“You improve the world by improving yourself,” he said. “And so I believe that [we can do this] through an individual collective, by actualizing our potential, finding something greater than ourselves and then be willing to do the work in the same tradition, servant-leader, of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.”
Dingell spoke of the need to keep moving forward with social justice.
“It’s a time for change, it’s a time for beginning to look forward to the new year to see how we can maintain the great traditions and hopes that we share as Americans,” he said. “I want you to know this is a length of time. It’s a time very different than what we saw at the time that Reverend King was born. We now see his leadership and his work and what he has done for us and for all Americans.”
Those who came to march said they were there to maintain the awareness of the Civil Rights movement and to celebrate King’s life.
Ann Arbor resident Robbie Ransom has participated in the march on and off since it began in the early 1980s and remembers times of segregation when she was growing up. She said, though it is a small march, it is an important march.
“When those rights were given to us, you grow to appreciate it,” she said. “It’s something you just don’t take for granted, because it can be taken away.”
Don Adams of Detroit attended the march with his children and said he wanted to teach them about black history.
“I just want them to stay involved and to not let the dream die away and make them knowledgeable about what’s going on,” he said.
Ann Arbor resident Marina Brown said she has attended the march fairly regularly for 20 years and said it was important to keep the memory of King strong.
“If you've lived long enough, like I have, things have changed so much after the Civil Rights [movement],” she said. “It’s just unbelievable. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s just fantastic what he did.”