By Sarrah Peters/News Editor
On Monday, January 21 the 33rd annual city-wide Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was held at The Venue at Coosa Landing.
Keara Washington opened the event with readings from the works of poet Langston Hughes, followed by an audience sing-a-long of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson. Reverend Earl Dudley, pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Gadsden, recited scripture and gave the invocation.
District 5 Etowah County Commissioner Jeffery Washington spoke next, greeting everyone to the event.
“Is freedom reining?” asked Washington. “As we look around at the youth and our community, we see we must acknowledge that we still have a significant amount of racial divide in our country: the marches, the protests and even division among families and friends. So, the racial tension and discrimination did not end with the civil rights movement, but it can end with you and me and our children. I leave with these words from Dr. King, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can.’”
David Lawson performed the Unsung Heroes Candle Lighting Ceremony. Lawson said that this ceremony honors local heroes that marched in Dr. King’s movement. The event recognized Faye W. Gary as an unsung hero.
“I demonstrated in the 60s,” said Gary. “I sang for Dr. King. I marched for Dr. King and I marched with Dr. King. And I’m here to tell you, the struggle is still real.”
At age 15, Gary was among 13 arrested during a demonstration at Woolsworth’s in Gadsden, while she was supposed to be in school. Gary said that the group she was with protested often, without being arrested. The local officers would give them a warning to leave or they’d be arrested, and they would comply. On the day of the arrest, the same warning was given, but after getting up to leave, the group was arrested. Once arrested, they were not allowed to make a phone call. Gary’s mother, who thought she was in school, did not know where she was for two to three days. When she was brought before a judge, he said that he would let Gary go, but that he didn’t want to see her again or the arrest would be processed next time.
“He looked over at me and said, ‘Young lady, did you understand what I said?’” said Gary. “You know what I said? ‘Yes, sir and get my papers ready cause I will be back.’ I was 15 and headstrong. And I believed in the cause.”
The keynote speaker was Talladega College President Dr. Billy C. Hawkins.
“This evening we are here to remember and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who would have been 90 years old on January 15,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins speech recognized the problems of racial tension in America today, citing several recent news stories.
“Whereas, we have made some progress, we must recognize the fact that we have also had some setbacks,” said Hawkins. “If we are to fulfill Dr. King’s dream, we must admit we still have a long way to go in this country.”
Hawkins said that we must all come together, regardless of whether or not we agree politically, to do what is right and support friends and family.
Talladega College Choir performed at the event.