While King was assassinated at the age of 39 in 1968, his legacy of service and fighting for justice through nonviolent means has long outlasted his time on Earth.
“I lived through the Civil Rights Movement. I saw what happened to Dr. King, and how he was doing things they said he couldn’t do,” Mayor JB Whitten said. “I saw the prosecution he went through, the jail time he spent. It takes a great man to stand up and continue to do that.”
Whitten spoke of the great dedication and strength King had and encouraged the audience to “pursue a community built on equality, freedom and dignity.”
Two young ladies, Shae and Shaun Wilks, shared a poem highlighting the importance of working together as a team and not caring about the color of somebody’s skin.
Special guest speaker Vaneesa Harrington addressed the diverse audience with a powerful speech focusing on imagining the unimaginable and envisioning possibilities held within a simple question, what if?
“What if the color of our skin had no impact on whether we were treated fairly?” Harrington said. “What if it had no bearing on where I live? Whether or not I’m promotable, my access to affordable health care, or my voting rights?”
Harrington reflected on the progress that has been made and challenged the audience to not wait to face the challenges that limit the possibilities promised in those what ifs.
Linda Smith’s voice rang loud and clear through the city square as she brought the program to a close by singing “We Shall Overcome.”
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