Several events to celebrate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were held in Anson County over the weekend, ending with a march and memorial celebration Monday.
Those participating in the march — wearing all black, just as marchers in the civil rights movement — made the 0.6-mile trek from Whit’s Convenience Store to Empowering Word Ministries, where Pastor Steve Adams and Winnie Bennett emceed “Freedom! The Struggle Continues.”
The event, featuring local community leaders, began with a scripture reading several songs, including “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
“If we’re going to keep this memory going, we’ve got to have that same type of otherness, and that otherness comes because we love people, and that love flows from God through us to others,” Wadesboro Mayor Bill Thacker said during his greeting. ”The reason we are here is to remember what he [King] stood for, and what he did for this country.”
Thacker also said that King’s assassination should never be forgotten.
King was shot April 14, 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, dying that evening at St. Joseph’s Hospital at the age of 39 — just a day after giving a sermon interpreted by many as foretelling of his untimely death.
“We all know that we are celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, to continue his legacy,” said Betty Huntley. “We know that through all the trials and tribulations, Dr. King held on to his hope — and without hope, we’re dead. So he had faith to go through those trials and tribulations.
“Faith is taking the first step, even when you can’t see the whole staircase,” she added. “This is why we’re here today.”
Anson County Commissioner Vancine Strudivant recognized God, all clergy members and elected officials, including: Judge Weaver Thomas; Wadesboro Police Chief Thedis Spencer; school board members Bobby Little, Merilyn Bennett and Frank Liles; and Clerk of Superior Court Mark Hammonds.
“This is what makes the dream possible,” she said.
Sturdivant said that she remembers where she was when King was shot: leaving high school, walking up to Salisbury Street with Ada Ford Singleton.
She also said that she will never forget it; she got in trouble when she got home because she did not have a ride home.
“To this day, I would do it again because it was for a reason,” Sturdivant said.
She went on to say that anyone who looks in the mirror and says they don’t see color needs to go to an eye doctor.
“Color has never stopped Anson County from doing what it does, which is to come together,” she said. “Color has never stopped us from worshiping together, giving together, or from loving each other together, and that’s what it is about.
“Some people say we look back at history, but we make history every day,” she continued, recognizing Anson County’s first black sheriff, Landric Reid.
“We don’t vote based off color anymore, but we vote for qualified people who know the Lord,” Sturdivant said. “If you know God, you are going to treat people right.”
Youth of Anson County also performed in dance, word, and song, “Freedom.”
The Rev. Jerry Tyson, pastor of Flat Rock Missionary Baptist Church, served as the event’s speaker, reading from the Book of Luke before delivering a message on liberty.
“We have to live a life of liberation, in order for us to accomplish the things that God has set before us,” Tyson said. “The world is still in need of hearing and living out the words of freedom.
“One thing that I find troubling, from an historical view, is that while American was declaring its independence from Great Britian, one year ealier, Africa was brought to America as slaves,” he continued.
Although African-Americans were eventually free, on paper, Tyson said Jim Crow laws were written and enacted to prevent true freedom.
“This is strange to me — for how can one group see itself to be free, while holding another group under the same principals that it seeks liberation from,” Tyson said. “The oppressed oppresses others.”
Other events to honor the late civil rights leader included: the inaugural MLK Jr. Holiday Parade, sponsored by HOLLA!, on Saturday; and an annual prayer breakfast Sunday at Lady Bug Family Restaurant, sponsored by Harold Smith of Smith’s Funeral Home.