As hundreds of marchers met at noon Monday around the steps of Macon City Hall, 5-year-old Benjamin “B.J.” Jeron Ridley Jr. stood on a concrete partition, near his grandmother’s voter registration table, and raised a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. fastened to the top of yardstick.
And throughout the singing and cheering, the speeches and closing prayer, he kept it held high.
“Your arms getting tired?” his father leaned over to ask at one point.
The boy just held it higher.
“He was a good man who fought for civil rights,” B.J. said after the program.
As is customary for the annual march, groups marching from the east, west, north and south chanted and sang old spirituals as they converged on city hall. The crowd appeared be one of the event’s largest, perhaps topping 1,000.
“We come here to make a statement: Freedom is not free,” the Rev. Richard Gammage, pastor of New Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church, told the crowd. “Many have died. Blood has been shed. It’s time now to re-evaluate voter registration, voter education, voter orchestration and, ultimately, voter demonstration. That means you go to the polls and vote.”
Mayor Robert Reichert said the marching is a fitting way to “realize how far we have come and look and see how far we have to go to build a more just community and build a community of love and brotherhood.”
For more on this story, read Tuesday’s Telegraph.