Area honors, celebrates King's memory
Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, January 21, 2003
By By James Crawford
They say every story has a beginning and an end. But the story of Martin Luther King Jr. has never ended. In fact, despite the fact that he's been gone more than thirty years, his story continues to flourish in the hearts and souls of men and women who feel they still have to face injustice daily and call upon not only his image, but his message – one of peace and tolerance – to help them fight back.
In Atmore, that sentiment couldn't be held much stronger as African-American religious leaders and citizens rallied together on Monday to celebrate the life, the struggle and the lasting legacy of what some consider to be the most influential African-American in our nation's history during the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade and program.
The parade began at 10 a.m. at Houston Avery Park on Martin Luther King Jr. boulevard, moved south to Ridgely Street and stopped at City Hall for a brief unity prayer, led by Rev. A.T. Day. The precession then proceeded up Carver Avenue to Gaines Chapel Church followed by masses of onlookers and celebrants that gathered in patches throughout the parade route gathering candy tossed from parade floats and singing.
"This is a day of unity for Atmore," Ricardo Johnson, former Atmore resident, said while attending the parade on Monday. "Of all the days I choose to come back, its Martin Luther King Jr. day that I value the most because all the things I do are because of the work he did."
The festivities at Gaines Chapel Church included several speakers, such as Donna Paul, a healthcare provider from Birmingham, who talked about health and social issues concerning African-American's. Christine Jackson, a real estate agent, spoke about housing issues and King's dream of everyone having an affordable place to live. "If you and your children have a better home, you're life will be better," Jackson said.
William Paul spoke briefly on economics and the importance of education but focused his energy on activism. "If you don't want to go with those who are progressive, then get out of the way," Paul said to the cheering ovation of the crowd. "You can change your way of thinking. We must change our way of thinking. God can help you work it out. You have to think right, pray right, live right, do right and you'll be right."
Commissioner Wiley Tait was on hand to offer his insight to the educational challenges to African-Americans and give them advice on how to take part in the decision making.
"They (Escambia County School Board) say they have financial problems. I'm not here to say that they don't. But please attend the meeting at the middle school and let your voice be heard," Tait said. "I don't think a sales tax on the backs of the poorest people in the land will work. Whatever tax, it's your money. If there is a problem, come out, ask questions and find out what is the problem."
Beverly Hinton, from the Birmingham offices of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was on hand to discuss workplace discrimination and talked about the challenges that still lay ahead for African-Americans and others.
"Many people think that if you're not an African-American, you don't have to worry about discrimination and that's not true. It's everyone's concern," Hinton said. "But we are here to help." Hinton also gave a brief history of the organization and the services that it offers.
The keynote speaker for the day was State President of the NAACP Rev. A.L. Shanklin. "We have experienced a lot today. We have heard songs and choir," Shanklin said of the Atmore parade and program. "We have come a long way, but have a long way to go. We have come to Escambia County many time, each time leaning on the Lord. Our ministry is to help those who are shut out-young men, girls, elderly, sick-that's our job as a child of god.
"We are here in celebration of the confirmation of the work of Martin Luther King Jr. We are here as a people. We've come from the back of the bus to the front of the bus to owning the bus. The time is always right to do that which is right. Let us remember the movement."
The man for whom the day marked a celebration of his life was born on Jan. 15 1929 in Atlanta, Ga. to Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. and the former Alberta Christine Williams. His childhood was engrossed in the religious example and teachings of his father, a prominent man in his own right. In 1947, King was licensed to preach in and soon after was ordained as a Baptist minister and received his first pastor role.
A turning point in King's life was the decision in 1954 by the Supreme Court that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. The struggle for equality fought by African-American's for decades now had teeth and King would soon become a leader in the struggle.
The following year, Rosa Parks decided not to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus as she had so many times before and unwittingly gave birth to the civil rights movement. King was elected as leader of the Montgomery Improvement Association, the outward face of the first official body of the civil rights movement.
In 1963, King led the famous March on Washington, the first large-scale integrated protest march, which culminated on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. It's at this march that King delivered his equally famous "I Have A Dream" speech that would become the moral statement of the civil rights crusade.
The following year, King attended the signing of the Public Accommodations Bill by Lyndon B. Johnson, an integral part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He met with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican months later and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway in December of that year.
On April 4, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated while talking on the balcony of his 2nd floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. He later died at St. Joseph's Hospital from a gunshot wound in the neck and was buried five days later in Atlanta, Ga.
"We've come from the back of the bus to the front of the bus to owning the bus," Rev. A.L. Shanklin, State President of NAACP.
Timeline provided by thekingcenter.org, a website devoted to educating the world about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s philosophy and methods of nonviolence
Born on Jan. 15 to Rev. Martin Luther and Alberta Christine King, Sr. in Atlanta, Ga.
Feb. 25: King is ordained to the Baptist ministry and appointed associate pastor at Ebenezer.
May 6-8: King graduates from Crozer with a Bachelor of Divinity degree.
May 17: The Supreme Court of the United States rules unanimously in Brown vs. Board of Education that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.
Oct. 31: Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. appoints King as the twentieth pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
Dec. 1: Rosa Parks, a forty-two year old Montgomery seamstress, refuses to relinquish her bus seat to a white man and is arrested.
Dec. 5: The first day of the Montgomery bus boycott and the trial date of Parks. A meeting of movement leaders is held. King is unanimously elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association.
Jan. 27: An unexploded bomb is discovered on the front porch of the King's house.
Feb. 14: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is founded.
Feb. 18: King is featured on the cover of Time magazine.
Sept. 17: King's book, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, is published by Harper &Row.
April 15: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is founded to coordinate student protests at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina on a temporary basis. (It is to become a permanent organization in October 1960.) King and James Lawson are the keynote speakers at the Shaw University founding.
June 24: King meets with John F. Kennedy (candidate for President of the United States) about racial matters.
May 2: King is invited to join the protests in Birmingham, Alabama.
July 27: King is arrested at an Albany, Georgia city hall prayer vigil and jailed on charges of failure to obey a police officer, obstructing the sidewalk and disorderly conduct.
October 16: King meets with President John F. Kennedy at the White House for a one-hour conference.
April 16: King writes the "Letter From A Birmingham Jail" while imprisoned for demonstrating.
June: King's book, Strength To Love, is published by Harper &Row.
June 12: Medgar Evers, NAACP leader in Jackson, Mississippi, is assassinated at his home in the early morning darkness. His memorial service is held in Jackson on June 15. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Washington D.C. on June 19.
August 28: The March on Washington, the first large-scale integrated protest march, is held in Washington, D.C. King delivers his "I Have A Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Afterwards he and other Civil Rights leaders meet with President John F. Kennedy in the White House.
September 15: Four young girls are killed in a Birmingham, Alabama church bombing.
November 22: President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
July 2: King attends the signing of the Public Accommodations Bill, (Part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) by President Lyndon B. Johnson in the White House.
September 18: King has an audience with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican.
December 10: King receives the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.
February 21: Malcolm X, leader of the Organization of Afro-American Unity and former Black Muslim leader, is murdered in New York City.
March 15: President Johnson addresses the nation and Congress. He describes the voting rights bill he will submit to Congress in two days and uses the slogan of the Civil Rights Movement, "We Shall Overcome."
March 21 – 25: Over three thousand protest marchers leave Selma for a march to Montgomery, Alabama protected by federal troops. They are joined along the way by a total of twenty-five thousand marchers. Upon reaching the capitol, they hear an address by King.
August 6: The 1965 Voting Rights Act is signed by President Johnson.
April 3: King's last speech titled "I've Been to the Mountain Top" is delivered at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee.
April 4: King is assassinated as he stands talking on the balcony of his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. He dies in St. Joseph's Hospital from a gunshot wound in the neck.
April 9: King is buried in Atlanta, Georgia.
June 5: Presidential candidate Senator Robert Kennedy is shot in Los Angeles and dies the next day.
January 18: Following passage of Public Law 98-144, President Ronald Reagan signs a proclamation declaring the third Monday in January of each year a public holiday in honor of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
December 8: A jury of twelve citizens of Memphis, Shelby County, Tenn. concluded in Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King, III, Bernice King, Dexter Scott King and Yolanda King Vs. Loyd Jowers and Other Unknown Conspirators that Loyd Jowers and governmental agencies including the City of Memphis, the State of Tennessee, and the federal government were party to the conspiracy to assassinate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.