Hundreds gathered in downtown Conway Monday to march in unison in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.
The crowd walked from Conway City Hall and Simon Park to the Faulkner County Library on Tyler Street, where marchers joined voices to sing "We Shall Overcome" and heard a message from the event keynote speaker Pastor Phillip Pointer, Sr., of Saint Mark Baptist Church in Little Rock.
The Unity March and celebration have been observed with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day for 15 years in Conway.
The event is organized in part by Jeff Moncrease, director of Political, Economic, Social Empowerment, or PESE.
The local group has a new initiative, Moncrease explained Monday, to become more action oriented.
Under the "R factor initiative," the community is challenged to "reflect, respect and realize," Moncrease said.
In other words, individuals are to reflect on the past, respect it for what it was while understanding it cannot change and to realize the past does not dictate the future.
He charged marchers to commit at least one random act of kindness for a stranger each day, living out King’s call to service.
The Log Cabin Democrat asked participants in Monday’s Unity March why they took part in the observance.
Why do you march?
Today is a day of remembrance for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and what he stood for. It’s a time for us all to reflect and remember how this still effects us. I’m participating with my three children and my church to show how together we can make a difference.
Today is a day of service, a day on, not a day off. It’s a time to remember and reflect on how far we’ve come and what we can accomplish together. I feel honored, and I feel blessed to be able to participate today. The civil rights movement is something I believe is still continuing.
I’m one of the organizers and founders of this Martin Luther King, Jr. march, and we’ve been doing this for the past 15 years. The reason we do it is to bring unity to the community. Conway being the size that it is, there’s diversity here, but we don’t have to be divided. Together as one voice and one community we can make a lot of difference in Conway. Personally, today means a great deal because there’s no reason for us to be divided. We all use racism as a catapult to say we can’t work together. Racism is a problem we use to hold someone back. If we get rid of the stigmas of black, white, Asian, Indian, and just say we’re one people, one voice, and we all want the same thing, we can take the time to sit down to expand our ideas and get rid of our differences. We can find that common ground.
I work for AmeriCorps, and I’m in AmeriCorps VISTA, and one of our initiatives throughout the year is to partner up for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and September 11. Me and my two esteemed colleagues are out to support the city and join in the march.
I’m participating in the march because the march goes on, and it will forever go on until the hearts of men change. Racism is in the heart of man regardless of color, regardless of race, regardless of gender, so we continue to march for equality and equity. We march for equity — equal access to jobs, to benefits, and mainly to education. The march goes on and will continue to go on until we reach that point. There have been great strides made, but there’s room to grow, and I hope we get there one day and that I can see it.
I’m participating to remember how people were getting treated back in the day, and I want to celebrate to have freedom.
My family is participating today because it’s important that my kids know the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. so that the legacy continues into the future.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1236, or on Twitter @Courtneyism. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)