Marchers honor MLK during annual Macon event

Macon’s MLK Day march, rally highlight Obama’s inauguration

jkovac@macon.comJanuary 21, 2013 

Fifty or so marchers headed down Washington Avenue and Poplar Street on Monday, tambourines jangling, singing songs from the civil rights era in a birthday salute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The marchers and hundreds of others from all corners of town converged on Macon City Hall.

Before parading away from the Booker T. Washington Community Center on Monroe Street, Tashunda Barnes, 17, was reminded of President Barack Obama’s inauguration, which was already underway.

“It’s an amazing day, a powerful day,” Barnes, a Central High School student, said. “Dr. King was an amazing person and he did so much. And Obama getting inaugurated today, to me, is a lot more special than ever. Two great men are being honored.”

Barnes’ mother, Lashunda Jackson, carried a poster quoting King: “Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.”

Melvin C. Fussell, 80, one of the walk’s organizers, said, “We are trying to keep the legacy of what Martin Luther King stood for and has done for all people. ... We need to keep it in mind.”

After the marchers arrived downtown for a rally, word of Obama officially taking office for a second term drew a louder ovation than one for King.

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert addressed a crowd in front of City Hall, opening his remarks with word from Washington that Obama was at the moment delivering his inaugural address, some of which the mayor had watched on a TV inside.

“And he said at the very beginning that what binds us together as Americans is not the color of our skin, nor the tenets of our faith or the origin of our last name,” Reichert said to cheers, his voice soaring to evangelical heights, “but rather it is our allegiance to the principles contained in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal. ... (Obama) is continuing to challenge us today to build a more perfect union, and together we can. ... So it is most appropriate that we today commemorate the past, celebrate the present and commit ourselves to the future.”

After the rally, local NAACP president Gwen Westbrooks said the day’s march into downtown was about unity. “There are still some racial barriers, and I think that’s not just in Macon, that’s all over the nation,” she said. “We do have a lot of work to do. We just have to come together as one.

“My vision for our NAACP branch is to unite our churches and our local leaders to move Macon forward.”

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