'Coming together': Martin Luther King Jr holiday inspires positive activities

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Sunday, January 15, 2023
MLK holiday inspires positive activities across Triangle
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The MLK holiday weekend provided plenty of time for reflection and consideration of the role his courage played in the civil rights struggle.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend provides plenty of time for reflection and consideration of the role his courage played in the civil rights struggle. Advocates who lobbied successfully for recognition of the national holiday encourage people to consider a day of service to others in his honor.

It's a motivating factor for Tayon Williams-Dancy, organizer of Saturday's march in Apex honoring Dr. King. An assassin's bullet killed King on April 4, 1968, and Williams-Dancy sees an opportunity to educate today's youth about avoiding violent solutions to disputes. So, she scheduled a forum designed to inspire dialogues after the march.

"A panel about gun violence. Dr. Martin Luther King was all about nonviolence. That was really the underpinning of his mission," Williams-Dancy said. "And now when we look at where we are today, there's so much violence happening in our world. How do we have our youth look back to what Dr. King did?"

She's studied his life as well as the sacrifices of others, including those beaten by law officers on 'Bloody Sunday', the 1965 march in Selma, Alabama organized to register Black people to vote.

"The fact that we're able to walk down Salem Street today, and not have hoses and dogs coming at us. That we can be free to walk, without facing death. and we can walk down and celebrate together, is part of King's legacy," she said.

The holiday weekend's also inspiring people in Durham, who spent part of Saturday clearing underbrush and leaves from Geer Cemetery, the final resting place for enslaved people and other African Americans who were prohibited from burial beside white people during the days when segregation laws were enforced.

"I wasn't really active, didn't know or wasn't interested at that time when I was growing up and when all that was going on. I just didn't know about it and now, I do. I know a little more, maybe a lot more. So, it means a lot more to me. So, I just want to feel like getting involved, to do something," said Marcia Saltz, who was a teenager when Dr. King advocated for civil and voting rights, during a break from the cemetery cleanup.

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One of the gravestones in the cemetery displays Saturday's date, but in the year 1842 when the woman buried there may have been enslaved.

Volunteer coordinator Carissa Trotta said that's one more reminder of the importance of service in the name of Dr. King.

"Coming together to acknowledge that history, to acknowledge the perseverance, the determination and strength. And Dr. King embodied those things as well. So we want to reclaim this space, and our goal is to keep it preserved for future generations," Trotta said.

Many young people are already aware of Dr. King's significance.

"I think about his speech that he did," said young Quinley Toth. "The speech to help Black Lives Matter and all of that. How important that is for everybody to have equal rights."

Ernest Coleman said he hasn't mentioned the King legacy to his preschool daughter.

"The discussion will come later, once she's able to fully grasp the meaning of it," he said. "We don't really want to impart any biases or anything like that on to her, until she's able to really accept it."

Those motivated by Dr. King's words, deeds and sacrifice want to continue acts of service that help the nation evolve.

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