Edna Spruill, 52, has been marching on Martin Luther King Jr. Day for 10 years in Warner Robins on behalf of relatives who lived during the civil rights movement. During one march years ago, someone threw a brick at her mother-in-law.
“(I decided) when I was old enough, I would continue to march and think of her,” the Warner Robins resident said.
She was one of hundreds, young and old, black and white, who marched from City Hall on Watson Boulevard to Warner Robins CME Church on Othal H. Lakey Circle, near the intersection of Russell Parkway and South Davis Drive on Monday morning.
Spruill said the march was an opportunity to unite the whole community.
“It’s a chance for all, regardless of color, to march and get together,” she said.
Winston Lawson, chairman of the board for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which co-sponsored the event, said about 250 people participated in the march.
“It’s always a good feeling for me,” said Lawson, who participated in civil rights marches during the 1950s and ’60s.
Participants sang “We Shall Overcome” throughout the progression of the march, and as the crowd approached the church, they walked arm in arm, singing “Amen.”
During the march, one woman kept a steady pace with a walking stick, babies were pushed in strollers and other children rode scooters.
Several in the crowd recalled witnessing another march in Houston County in 1965.
After 17 black people were put in jail for staging a sit-in at a drugstore in Perry that year, about 400 people marched for their release, said Jerome Stephens, 62, of Warner Robins.
“People should be appreciative of what happened to this moment,” said Kathleen resident Luther Solomon, 71, who also remembered the 1965 march.
Solomon’s grandson Gabriel, 18, also attended Monday’s march and has been doing so for eight years.
“I’m trying to learn about Martin Luther King Jr. and black history,” he said.
“It felt good to reunite with young people, old people, middle-aged...”
At the church, marchers took part in a program and breakfast, also presented by the Houston County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The Rev. Lindsey Napier, the church’s pastor, said he was glad to be a part of honoring King’s legacy.
“The little service we give by marching and having the service is just mind-blowing,” Napier said. “Many in the room were born after his death, but they still remember the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr.”
Close to noon in Macon, four groups from the north, south, east and west sides of the city marched and converged at City Hall.
About 1,000 participated in the march, said Richard Gammage, president of the Evangelical Ministers Alliance of Macon, whose group put the event together.
Gammage led the crowd in song and prayer and thanked “God, who has brought us thus far on the way.”
Macon Mayor Robert Reichert also spoke to the marchers, quoting excerpts from King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and his 1965 sermon at Temple Israel of Hollywood, noting that King had strong opinions on poverty and justice as well as racial equality.
While progress has been made in terms of racial equality, Reichert said, more action will need to be taken to address the poverty and crime rates locally by bringing jobs to Macon and making the city’s neighborhoods safer.
“We try to live it out and realize the dream he had,” Reichert said.
The gathering at City Hall was followed by a service at First Baptist Church on New Street.
Dorothy Ridley, president of the Macon chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, was also at the march and church service to give people the opportunity to register to vote.
“It’s a great way to honor Dr. King,” she said. “He paid with his life for what we have. He fought for the rights of others. He fought for equality, rights and jobs.”
Her grandson Benjamin, 3, also attended the event, holding an image of King.
“I want him to understand what the process is and start at a young age,” Ridley said.
Among the marchers in Macon were mother Elaine Johnson, 54, and daughter Shynetria Moss, 31.
The two marched to City Hall from the Rosa Jackson Recreation Center in east Macon.
Moss, who was excited about Obama taking office last year, said she wanted to devote the holiday to doing service in the community.
“It’s very uplifting,” she said. “It’s a great reminder of what the legacy is all about. I was happy to see so many younger people involved.”
Johnson said while she wasn’t an active member of the community as a youngster during the civil rights movement, she’s trying to do what she can now.
“As I get older, I’ll try to see if I can make more of an effort to be involved,” Johnson said. “I’m making the effort to keep the dream alive.”
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.