ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County residents marched down East Washington Street in remembrance of the life and message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Saturday, finishing at the old courthouse with words from religious and community leaders who spoke on the late civil rights icon’s impact on society today, nearly 50 years after his death.
Leading the march was the Richmond Senior High School JROTC battallion and color guard, followed by the Richmond Senior High School Band, members of several African-American sororities, churches and community leadership organizations, all buffered by the Rockingham fire and police departments.
The theme of the day was “Never Lose Hope: Unity Wins!” As the marchers gathered in the courtroom, King’s “I Have A Dream” speech echoed over the loudspeakers. The ceremony opened with singing by Raven Newton, a student at the Ninth Grade Academy, who got a standing ovation.
Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly said he marched in the parade for a purpose: to honor King’s legacy.
“His dream is still alive,” Kelly said.
Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons offered a message of unity in his speech, saying that even though people have different ability levels, much can be accomplished when they put those skills together towards a common goal.
“People in our community are from various paths, religions … however we should live in unity and prove to the rest that unity is true diversity,” Clemmons said. “Unity focuses on the existence of mutual peace, love and harmony despite having differences in so many ways like caste, class, religion, et cetera.”
The Rev. James Smith, Jr., a retired pastor who has served at multiple churches in the Rockingham area for 23 years and has been a member of the MLK Jr. Steering Committee for more than 20 years, was in attendance. He said that when King was alive, the civil rights leader inspired him and members of his church to go and “witness” to drug addicts and others in desperate situations.
“His divine courage helped me know that nothing will come in your path that God cannot bring you through,” Smith said.
Since King passed, Smith said he now sees his legacy not as someone who achieved greatness on his own, but as someone who was able to inspire others to work together.
“We got to work together,” he said.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]