The annual Freedom March down Broad Street, followed by the Martin Luther King Jr. Day service at City Auditorium, were the culmination of a four-day celebration put together by the MLK Commission of Rome and Floyd County.
Patresia Johnson, who chaired the Friday Night Extravaganza portion of the long weekend, was glad to see their hard work end in such a positive way.
“Our theme this year was ‘Fulfilling the Dream Through Love and Service,’ and I feel like we have accomplished that this weekend,” Johnson said.
She commented on the mix of people who marched to the steps of City Hall and what the diversity meant.
“It was a joyous occasion, and people of all races and creeds came together,” Johnson said. “You see that and it shows what Dr. Martin Luther King’s message was all about.”
The moment was not lost on Ella Mae Clifton as she watched the march with her friends Helen Jackson and Lillie Gibson. She paraphrased a line from King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
“One day, we will not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character,” Clifton said. “It reminds us that we’ve come a long way. I never imagined that there would be so many people that continue to do it.”
Jackson said it was amazing to her that there were so many younger people, part of the “new generation,” who participated.
“I never thought I would live to say that,” she said. “There were less than 20 of us when they first started the march, and I never thought I would live to see where it’s gotten.”
The guest speaker for the celebration service was Brandon Jones, an associate minister at Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Elberton.
“I am honored to be a part of this program,” Jones said prior to the event. “It helps us remember the need for positive change. And we must never be satisfied as long as change is needed.”
He continued to expand on that sentiment during his speech.
“Dr. King has meant a lot to me, but what meant the most was his tireless works and unselfish efforts towards mankind,” Jones told the crowd inside the Rome City Auditorium.
He discussed the trials of the civil rights movement and what many had done to start it.
Johnson also spoke on King’s decision to take something and make it so important in his life that he was willing to die for it. He urged those in attendance to find that something for themselves and make it their purpose, to continue making the world a better place for freedom and equality.
“It is truly beautiful to see the strides we have taken as a people,” Jones said, noting that this year marks the 50th anniversary of King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech.
But he warned that now is not the time to sit back and fall asleep with a feeling of accomplishment.
“Give birth to a cause that calls your name and let it take root in your heart,” Jones said. “If we are to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, heed his words. Find something that is worthwhile and that we will die for.”
The commission also presented awards of appreciation to two individuals.
Bishop Norris Allen of the Overcoming Church of God was a member of the civil rights movement and has been instrumental in local efforts to remember King. Allen was at the inauguration of President Barack Obama but his wife, Gladys, accepted his plaque.
William James, director of operations for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Georgia, was honored for starting Summit Quest, a nonprofit that provides outdoor programs and support for children and families affected by cancer.