As Milledgeville joined the rest of the nation one day after Dr. Martin Luther King’s would-be 88th birthday Monday, a weekend of events celebrating the civil rights icon came to a head. On an unseasonably warm January morning, several dozen local residents gathered at Huley Park for the city’s annual MLK Day march. Escorted by officers from the Milledgeville Police Department, marchers carried banners, shouted slogans, and sang spirituals in a 1.7-mile march through the heart of downtown Milledgeville ending at the 186-year-old Flagg Chapel Baptist Church, invoking the life and teachings of America’s most famous civil rights icon.
After a stirring prayer and call to action from former Georgia College professor and Habitat for Humanity President Dr. John Sallstrom, marchers were invited inside the church for the MLK “Where Do We Go From Here” Celebration Service, which included scheduled remarks from the Rev. James Harris of Faith Christian Fellowship Ministries, Baldwin County Democratic Party Chairman Quentin T. Howell, and Baldwin School Superintendant Dr. Noris Price, among others.
“Dr. King believed that all men are created equal, that we should all get along, and that we should leave the world better than what we found it,” said retired Baldwin County educator Mary O. Dixon. “We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long ways to go … I think the most important thing to remember is that he [MLK] stood for nonviolence, he was a man of integrity, and that he loved all people and showed it in his life’s work.”
Others on hand for the day’s events echoed those sentiments.
“Dr. King was a national icon who led this nation in a movement that helped change the fabric of our country,” said former state Senator and Milledgeville Mayor Floyd Griffin. “We have seen tremendous gains since then, but we need to continue to recognize him on this day and continue to strive, as a people and as a nation, to love everyone and try to make life better than what it is. … We do have a divided nation, and I think he would definitely take issue with that and try to find ways to improve it.”
In hearing the thoughts of local residents gathered to celebrate King’s life and his impact, a feeling of love and a desire for more understanding among all people acted as a common thread.
“I think it’s important to remember [MLK’s] birthday because of all the sacrifices that he made for not just black people, but all people, to have rights and freedom,” said resident Angela Robinson. “As a society, nobody is perfect, and I think we’ve strayed away from his dream in reality. I wouldn’t say he would be disappointed, maybe hurt more so, but in the long run I’m praying that people will come back together to do the will that he started out to do.”