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Martin Luther King commemorative march takes place in downtown Russellville

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

“This event is wonderful,” noted Annie Pearl Minor, vice president of the Lauderdale County chapter of the Alabama Democratic Conference. “We got a great attendance.”

It began at 11 a.m. at the Chucky Mullins Center, proceeded to the A.W. Todd Centre and continued to the Franklin County Courthouse.

“We’ve been coming to these celebration services for several years,” share Lonnie Freeman, pastor of Emmanuel Christian Center in Leighton, who spoke at the courthouse. “This is probably one of the smaller marches we’ve had, but it’s still good for the fellowship. It’s a good time to reconnect with people – to keep the dream alive.

“There should be freedom and equity for everybody.”

After a song and a prayer, the march returned to the Todd Centre to finish with a luncheon, singing by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Choir and speakers encouraging positive action to continue improving things for the future. The event also offered voter registration.

The youngest speaker was Diamond Paris Eggleston, a ninthgrader at Muscle Shoals High School. Eggleston, winner of the Miss Historic Springville competition, is also the founder of S.H.I.N.E., an initiative inspiring children and teens’ mental health.

Eggleston said the best gift a child can receive is for the adults in their life to be present. She also stressed the need to become more comfortable talking about mental health issues – especially teen depression and suicide – and she shared her own message of encouragement for the future.

“Don’t let somebody tell you you cannot achieve your dream,” she advised. “You have to protect your dream. If you want to do something, go get it.

“You have to practice, you have to study, you have to make sacrifices,” added Eggleston.

Dr. Sasha Willingham Harris also addressed the youth in attendance. A holder of a doctorate of nursing practice as well as a master’s degree in healthcare quality and safety, she is the director of nursing–medical division at UAB Hospital.

“When you look back over your life, don’t have regret,” she urged. “Believe in yourself, believe in your future, and you will find your way.

“Every time you fail, you come closer and closer to success because you learn a lesson out of that,” she added. “We have to stop making excuses and do what we have to do so we can do we want to do later.”

The Rev. Timothy L. Perryman of Freeman Tabernacle Baptist Church in Moulton was the keynote speaker for the event.

“It’s been 60 years since Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I have a dream speech’ – 60 years since the march on Washington has taken place,” Perryman said. “A lot has changed; yet, there are still areas in our society that haven’t.

“His dream was for generations to come,” added Perryman. “The dream wasn’t for him to make it over by himself but that humanity as a whole would live up to somehow approaching each other with dignity and appreciation.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Day was formally established as a federal observance in 1983. It is celebrated the third Monday of January each year, in conjunction with King’s birthday.

Locally, every three years the march takes place in Franklin County, in a rotation with Colbert County and Lauderdale County.

“We’re just here to remind everyone to register to vote and remember what Dr. King stood for,” said Joyce Nelson with the Lauderdale County chapter of the Alabama Democratic Conference.

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 questions about the scholarship committee, contact any member of the Franklin County branch: Luke 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.

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