MLK march returns to Russellville this year, set for Jan. 16

The Franklin County Branch of the nonprofit Dr. Martin Luther King Scholarship Committee is holding the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration March in Russellville this year, Jan. 16.

The march will start at 11 a.m. at the Chucky Mullins Center, proceed to the A.W. Todd Centre and continue to the Franklin County Courthouse, with an estimated arrival time of 11:30-11:45 a.m. After a song and a prayer, the march will return to the Todd Centre to finish with a program, expected to start around 12:15-12:30 p.m. The program will include a luncheon, singing and three speakers.

Every three years, the march takes place in Franklin County, in a rotation with Colbert County and Lauderdale County. Money raised for this year’s scholarship will stay in Franklin County.

“We invite everybody to attend the march and program,” explained Luke Nelson, president of the Franklin County branch of the scholarship committee. “Dr. King did not just stand for black people. He was out there for everybody. We hope everyone in the county will join us.”

The group’s stated goal is to issue three or more $1,200 scholarships for 2023-2024, depending on how much money is raised. Funds for the scholarships come through donations from churches, businesses, the selling of MLK shirts, fundraising events and personal donations.

The group is still seeking sponsors for this year’s scholarships.

The mission statement of the memorial scholarship committee is “Keep the Dream Alive, One Generation to Another.” Scholarships go to graduating high school seniors who are “bright, talented, economically disadvantaged and exhibit the principles of Dr. King in scholarship and character while contributing to the Franklin County community.”

For the program, ninth-grader Diamond Paris Eggleston, a student at Muscle Shoals High School from Russellville, and Russellville native Sasha Willingham Paris, a 2017 graduate of Russellville High School who is now director of nursing at UAB Hospital, will address the youth. The Rev. Timothy Perryman, pastor of Freeman Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Moulton, will address the adults.

Willingham Paris said they hope to share an inspiring message of encouragement with the young people in attendance – particularly about continuing their education.

“If I can do it, anybody can do it,” Willingham Paris said. “Graduating college is not about being the smartest; it’s about being the most consistent and persistent in everything that you do.”

For questions about the scholarship committee, contact any member of the Franklin County branch: Nelson, president, 256-412-3566; Melvin Young, vice president, 256-366-7265; Rose Hillman, secretary, 256-412-2296; or Beatrice Harvey, treasurer, 256-332-3627. The Rev. BJ Bonner and Joe Graham serve as advisers.