Fighting against the crisp, cold air, hundreds met on the Suspension Bridge on Monday 9 a.m. for the 23rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace March. On the day dedicated to service and the commemoration of a national legacy and civil rights leader, numerous organizations, church groups and school representatives made appearances to show their respects. The event is known as the Peace March and is hosted by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.
A member from Phi Beta Sigma opened up the event in prayer before leading the crowd across the Suspension Bridge. The mood started off in somber quiet as hundreds of people made their way towards Martin Luther King drive but grew in spirit as the crowd began to sing, “We Shall Overcome”, the gospel song known to be the anthem of the civil rights movement, also cited in Martin Luther King’s final speech in 1968.
Pausing in a grassy area, the crowd took in words of inspiration and encouragement from different leaders in their fields and organization presidents.
“When one part of the human race succeeds, the whole human race succeeds. Remember the dream but also remember what it takes to activate the dream.” Dr. Peaches Henry, Waco NAACP President said.
She said this after applauding those who voted in the election of McLennan County’s first African American female county commissioner. She continued to remind the audience members of their duty to use their voices.
Every year, the peace walk in Waco increases in recognition as it consistently gives people a place to remember the civil rights movement and share their voices.
Rolanda Burns, the sorority sister and graduate advisor of Baylor Alpha Kappa Alpha has attended the event several times.
“It looks like each year that we keep coming, more and more people come. The highlight of this whole thing is really the children who have caught onto the dream of MLK and appear and participate. It’s so important to teach our children the dream that they can be anything and everything they want to be. And it does not mater what race we are. All ethnicities are here. That is what Dr. King’s dream is all about.” Burns said.
Ron English, the Waco Sigma Chapter President, spoke on organization representations and the purpose surrounding the walk.
“We joined up Phi Beta and Phi Beta Sigma about 5-6 years back and invite other organizations that are working for cultural equality and equity to come out to this event. Some school superintendents are here along with the children. For me, being at this event is a time to reflect- not necessarily to be against, but to be for.” English finished with a smile, “My own kids usually come to this event. They just couldn’t wake up this early morning.”
After a brief reflection by Alice Pollard, Zeta Phi Beta sorority chairperson and event coordinator, the crowd walked to the Bledsoe Recreation Center. For about an hour, the audience was shown several dances, gospel songs, and pieces of poetry that all served to preserve the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and his service to America. The event finished with a ‘Unity Circle’ and lunch was served at Bledsoe-Miller Center.