Marches, rallies held to honor King

January 21, 2008 1:41:22 PM PST
It was 40-years ago Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. His death didn't kill his dream of equal rights for everyone.

Hundreds gathered braved the bitter cold Monday in Raleigh to take part in the annual King Memorial March.

More than 200-people from the Triangle gathered in downtown Raleigh to honor Dr. King and the freedom he helped solidify. Gwendolyn Gadsden joined the marchers, "We're so thankful that we had a person that we can honor, who is black, and who has set a pathway for us."

One man we spoke to wrote a poem dedicated to the civil rights leader. "I'm honored, privileged, very proud, to speak of a man who always drew a crowd. He was a civil rights leader, minister, that's all good, he preached universal peace, love, and brotherhood."

The group walked from Bicentennial Plaza and made a circle near the N.C. Capitol Building ? all singing the praises of King. Gadsden remembers the blatant discrimination of the past. "And I'll never forget," she said. "I saw a sign that said blacks only and whites, and I was a determined little girl at that time. I went in the white cafeteria."

The celebrations for Dr. King continues throughout the day and will likely continue throughout history.

History made in Smithfield

For the first time in history the Smithfield Packing Plant in Tarheel is closed in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's birthday. It's a holiday employees say they got because they fought for it.

Those employees packed the First Baptist Church in Fayetteville with pride. Lois Burns is a Smithfield employee that fought for the right to celebrate Dr. King's contributions to America. "They had to work last year but... some of us walked out and some of us didn't so," Burns said. "I was the one that walked out. It's a great victory."

Willie Gainey adds, "You have to fight for something in order to get it. You see... that was Martin was doing. He was fighting to get us all equal rights and everything. See... those people care more about those hogs than they do about employees."

The Smithfield employees say they came to Monday's celebration seeking inspiration from a number of community leaders who spoke about King with great passion.

Reverend Cureton Johnson says just like in the 50s and 60s, black churches led the way to making conditions better for all employees in the workplace. "That's what the Montgomery bus boycott was about. Workers in that town who had to ride the buses in indignity. And so we've got to continue to champion and push on with Dr. King's dream so it becomes reality," Johnson said.

Young people on the move

In Durham, a crowd made up of those too young to remember Doctor King marched through the streets, along with those old enough to remember him very well. They sang "We Shall Overcome" a song that became the anthem of the Civil Rights Movements.

The annual march began at the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance headquarters and ended with a rally at Urban Ministries on Liberty Street.

Hundreds honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy by volunteering.

The Day of Service created by the United Way, included projects in every corner of the triangle Monday.

As adults across the Triangle painted the Biltmore Hills Community Center, kids also joined in.

"We need to teach our kids, that it's not all about the Nintendos and the Game Boys and what you can get," Jack and Jill volunteer, Carolyn Garrett-Piggot said.

Shane Moore, 12, among dozens who picked up littler, gets a hands on lesson of King's legacy.

"We're making bird houses," Moore said. "Martin Luther King ? like wanted to get peace throughout the world in his communities and by us help the community we're helping make peace. And by us caring that is also helping his dream live on."

There were 35 projects going on throughout the triangle. The signature project in Wake County was at Knightdale High School where students were working on a mural.

"The notion was unity, love and brotherhood and students of Knightdale did a great job of taking that concept and creating this lovely mural," Mary Williams-Stover with the Triangle United Way said.

More than 75 volunteers cracked open canisters to decorate the school hallway. Rex Hospital volunteer, Margaret Requena says it wasn't easy getting her teenage son out of bed.

"Oh course he argued with me this morning when I woke him up because he told me, mom this is a day off. I said, 'no it's not get up," she said.

"I feel a lot better; I'm glad I came out," Requena's son, Sean Henry added.

An estimated 1,200 volunteers organized by the United Way throughout Wake, Durham and Orange Counties came out to serve during the MLK holiday.


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