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MLK Day to feature march, program

For many, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day represents just another day off work. For memorial event organizers, the day represents something more.

The community is invited to come out and celebrate the life and legacy of King Jr., Jan. 16, taking part in annual events that rotate among Franklin, Colbert and Lauderdale counties. This year’s events are slated for Russellville, beginning with a march.

“The march itself is going to begin at the Chucky Mullins center,” explained organizer BJ Bonner, who is pastor at First Baptist Church College Avenue in Russellville. The march is open to anyone who wants to be a part of it; marchers should assemble at the Chucky Mullins center prior to 11 a.m. “It’s a symbolic march … We especially want our local pastors and ministers to come and be part of it.”

Bonner said the hope is that the march will remind people of the 1963 civil rights march.

“As we look at what it stood for, it was about trying to reach equality for all citizens,” Bonner said. “That march stood for coming together. What a lot of people fail to remember is there were a lot of people from white communities and other communities who came across the line and made that march a success.” Bonner said even though he was only a young child at the time, he can well remember the seriousness and sincerity that surrounded the ’63 march that called for peace and unity.

In the upcoming march, “we will go to the courthouse, and we’re going to have a prayer there,” Bonner said. “It’s a very peaceful thing we do. I have been leading the marches for many years.”

The day’s events will continue with a noon program at the A.W. Todd Centre. Former Gadsden councilman Robert Avery will serve as keynote speaker. “He was one of the individuals who made the 1963 march on Washington when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke,” Bonner said. “He was responsible for signs and a lot of information getting out during that time … He had a hands-on experience with what was going on then.”

Tharptown High School teacher Maletha Walker will also speak, with a special message for young people.

Bonner said he is looking forward to the march and program, and he hopes people will plan to attend.

“It’s something that can be used to bring people together and help people to understand: no one has to fear the culture of another,” he said. “We are more alike than what people would ever realize.”