On the steps of the Rosa Jackson Recreation Center Monday morning, the final public words of Martin Luther King Jr. rang through the freezing air.
With about 150 people gathered for the annual march in recognition of King’s birthday, the Rev. Alfred Hazel evoked King’s soaring oratory style as he recited the end of what has become known as King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” speech. In those words King seemed to foresee his death, but spoke with optimism about the cause of civil rights. He was assassinated the next day.
King delivered the speech at a union hall in Memphis, Tennessee, and Hazel said it inspired him to go on to a 38-year career as a labor leader.
“It reminds me of the prophecy that he spoke, that we’ve got some difficult days ahead,” Hazel said after the march ended downtown. “We see those difficult days right now with 800,000 government workers furloughed and out of work with no income.”
He noted that King was in Memphis trying to help striking garbage workers.
In an annual tradition in Macon, hundreds of people participated in the march that began at four different locations and converged on the Macon-Bibb Government Center downtown.
Macon-Bibb Mayor Robert Reichert told the crowd that King’s work continues.
“It was 51 years ago that his voice was silenced by his assassination, however his message lives on because of what you do and what we all do together to keep the dream alive,” Reichert said.
Among those marching was 11-year-old Kaelyn Rouse and her sister Jakaela, 8.
“I like to go on the march because Dr. King, he marched and protested for our rights so I think it’s right for us to do the same thing,” Kaelyn said.
Christian Jordan carried a sign in the march that read “Let Freedom Ring.”
“We are still living his legacy,” Jordan said. “It’s important that we show America, especially during this time, what’s still important, that we still have values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and you can do that no matter what color you are.”