The King Day March for Non-violence was led by those carrying signs reading “Pray for our families, communities, president, nation,” “Remembering Trayvon Martin” and “Love One Another.”
The march began at A.P. Howell Park and traveled down Martin Luther King Drive through downtown Jasper where everyone paused to sing and pray in front of the courthouse.
Kai Johnson, a participant in the march, was happy to see a large number in attendance during the day’s events.
“I’m amazed and happy for the turnout, and the weather is lovely,” Johnson said. “I’m just thankful that we had a good turnout for today, and I hope next year it’ll be even better and even bigger.”
The Rev. Arthur D. Sudduth, later joined by Sarah McElrath, led the gathering in song by using a megaphone. Pastor Jerry Wilder ended the brief get-together with a prayer.
From the courthouse square, the mass of people walked, biked or drove to the Percy L. Goode Community Center where a program was held.
Several spoke at the King Day Program, including area ministers, pastors and council members.
Special song selections were performed by members of the Coppins Chapel A.M.E. Church.
Jasper City Councilwoman Sandi Sudduth, also an organizer of Monday’s festivities, bragged on the number of people in attendance and how it was made up of black and white participants.
“First of all, we’re so glad that we had so many people come out of different races and different cultures. The NAACP, which is the group that sponsors this every year, stands for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, but now it can be for the Advancement for People of Color,” Sudduth said. “We’re excited that we had a beautiful day to march, some just walked the whole way. It commemorates Dr. King, of course, and it commemorates Stand Your Ground, which the red t-shirts are showing that for him standing up for what was right. We’re just glad that everybody decided to come out.”
Before the special guest speaker took to the podium, two other gentlemen — Ja’Ray Nalls and Minister Alshiki Tucker — had the crowd standing and cheering on their feet. Nalls gave a tribute to King and Tucker offered a rendition of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Twelve-year-old Nalls said he has been engaged in the marches for the past two to three years.
“I think it’s gone really, really well. It’s pretty fun to be able to connect with people and have the same cause rather than arguing so much,” Nalls said before taking center stage. “I think it’s really important to remember because it seems like you always take for granted what always happens, so when somebody reminds you of what happened and what they had to do to get here, it kind of just opens your eyes a bit.”
Nalls described in his tribute what he envisioned King would say if he were still alive today.
“I think Dr. King would remind us of our responsibilities to ourselves, our families and our communities to create more unity. I think Dr. King would say, ‘I’m very disappointed that there are more young black men in prison than there are in college pursuing their goals, and on that same note, young boys and young men pull up your pants and learn to dress for success,’” Nalls said. “... Last, but certainly not the least, I think Dr. King would say, ‘I didn’t march on Washington, spend nights in jail, arrange boycotts, get watered down by the powerful water hoses to lose generation after generation. Now is the time for yes, we can! Yes, we can!’”
Shortly following Nalls was Tucker with a powerful rendition of King’s speech. Tucker recited the speech without faltering or looking at note cards, citing phrases such as “I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of ‘interposition’ and ‘nullification’ — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
The guest speaker for the day was Minister William Eric Hamilton, who also Walker County’s first African American assistant district attorney. Sounding more like a Southern minister than an attorney, Hamilton won the crowd’s applause with his well-spoken words calling King a “drum major for justice.”
“It is because of his sacrifice and the sacrifice of many others, too numerous to name, that the promise of our Founding Fathers have been made a reality,” Hamilton said prior to hitting his three main key points: heart work, time investment and financial work. “... This afternoon, Walker County, if you want to be great, if you want your life to have any significance, then you must rise up your level of service ... You want to be great Walker County? Be great in love, be great in moral excellence, be great in generosity.”