Cleveland’s diversity and spirit shone through the chill and snow on Monday as residents marched, arm in arm, to remember the life and message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.Monday marked the …
Cleveland’s diversity and spirit shone through the chill and snow on Monday as residents marched, arm in arm, to remember the life and message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Monday marked the inaugural MLK March through downtown Cleveland, part of Cleveland State Community College’s Dream Weekend 2020. Willie Thomas, vice president for equity and inclusion, said the bitter cold served as a symbolic reminder to the dozens who braved the weather that taking a stand is rarely comfortable.
“I think in some aspects it’s symbolic. It’s cold, uncomfortable, but so is life. Yet, we choose to march together. And as we're marching together through the cold and through the frosts and through the uncomfortable, we have each other to know that together we stand,” he said.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died in Memphis from a fatal gunshot wound on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel. He was 39 years old and in the city to support African-American workers during their strike for better wages and treatment. He was meant to leave Memphis earlier, but his flight was delayed due to a bomb threat on his plane, leading to his last stirring oration in which he spoke of the threats made against him and the hope he has seen on “the mountaintop.”
“And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?" the inspiring orator suggested.
In words that have become a legendary part of the civil rights movement, King added, "Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Linking arms and singing “We Shall Overcome,” marchers old and young, white and black, Cleveland-born and transplanted, made their way through the heart of downtown Cleveland and led the march to Broad Street United Methodist Church. Some speakers, like Mayor Kevin Brooks, couldn’t help but comment on the diverse representation seen within the church on a day when King’s relentless battle for equality and desegregation is remembered.
“I look around this room and think, ‘This is what heaven is going to be like,’” he said.
The church pews filled with Bradley and Polk County residents to hear the messages of remembrance on Monday, which began with a confession by Broad Street Pastor Micah Nicolaus.
He said in order to be forgiven, one must repent. And so he shared that the Broad Street United Methodist Church in its decades of history once took a stance that supported slavery during a time that the country was divided on the issue. As he looked around the room, he said those days were “long gone,” and that the message from the church must continue to be one of love, peace and kindness for all.
Taiya Constant, a junior at Cleveland High School, recited part of Dr. King’s speech as she read an essay on how his life and legacy have impacted her.
A Beta Club and National Honor Society member, her prospects for college are bright. Moreover, the friendships and opportunities she has today she said wouldn’t be possible without Dr. King and the civil rights movement.
“Because of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, I can live my dream instead of just wishing on it,” she said.
Students like Constant marching alongside a generation that witnessed the civil rights movement are proof that King’s dream is still alive, according to Pastor Edwin Robinson of Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church.
“The dream is not dead,” he said. “Not even close.”
A Clevelander for the last 40 years, Robinson said he saw the days of King when water fountains were labeled “Whites Only.”
But after the march through the bitter cold, “where we all breathed that same cold air,” residents came inside the church together to get warm with coffee and donuts, “and we all had our coffee from the same pot,” Robinson said.
Cleveland State Community College President Dr. Bill Seymour said the turnout was “excellent” for a freezing January day and the first year for the event. Pastor Nicolaus told Monday’s congregation that they are invited to march again next year, and welcome back each and every day at Broad Street United Methodist.
Print subscribers have FREE access to clevelandbanner.com by registering HERE
Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE
We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.
If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.
Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE