New Castle News

January 22, 2013

Photo Gallery, Stories: Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Walk tops 200, despite cold

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — More than 200 Martin Luther King Day marchers stepped off yesterday in freezing weather.

However, a light snow and 20-degree temperatures, which felt like about 10 degrees, did not dampen the spirits of participants in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Walk.

Walking behind banners, marchers left the West Side Primary School at 10 a.m. and proceeded down Washington Street to Kennedy Square.

Joining the estimated 160 marchers were about 60 members of the Mohawk High School marching band. Vehicles carrying older people opting to avoid the cold also were in the procession.

Charles Polk chaired the event.

“It’s an honor to have been selected to head this,” Polk said.

Too young to have participated in the original freedom marches, Polk said he went to Washington D.C. in the early 1980s where he participated in a Rally for Peace Conference led by Stevie Wonder. The musician and others were then campaigning to establish a day celebrating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a national holiday.

“Who would have thought that 20 years later I’d be heading up local events celebrating in his honor?” Polk commented.

“This is a day for everyone,” he said. “Dr. King was good with everyone, not just one class of people.”

Polk noted that Sunday night events at Ebenezer Church of God in Christ spotlighted King’s commitment to the nonviolent civil rights cause and set the tone for the holiday.

Downtown at Kennedy Square, Polk delivered the invocation, calling for blessings for the city and “understanding one another as Dr. King urged.”

The keynote speaker, the Rev. Nathan Loudon of First Presbyterian Church, called on those present to build on the legacy of Dr. King. He urged them to “become proactive peacemakers. Make a difference in your community. Remember, the Golden Rule still applies in society.”

Loudon called on parents and grandparents to raise children to achieve all they can. He called on others to extend proactive peace to the workplace, “and do the right things for the right reasons, making the right choices.”

Loudon said King was one of his heroes.

“If I’d been there, I hope I would have stood shoulder to shoulder with him in support of his cause — justice for the good of all of society.”

Other program participants were Brittany Andrews and Nicole Mitchell, DaQuan Fuqua who read the 23rd Psalm and Keanna Fuqua who read St. Paul’s definitions of love from the New Testament. Allyson Hood sang the National Anthem, Zunobia Smith led the Pledge of Allegiance, and about 20 members of the New Castle school choir, directed by Shannon Geary, offered a musical selection.

The program concluded with a hymn.

The federal holiday was established in 1983 by former president Ronald Reagan, to be observed on the third Monday of January each year near King’s Jan. 15 birthday.

It first was observed on Jan. 20, 1986, and has been officially observed nationally since 2000.