WALKING AS ONE: Residents attend 15th MLK Day march in Montevallo

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – Cold weather on the morning of Jan. 21 didn’t keep numerous Shelby County residents from marching together in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Dozens participated in the 15th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March from Island Street to Montevallo High School, where a program honoring King’s life and work followed.

Members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority walk with other groups in the Unity March in Montevallo on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“Without him, we would not all be sitting in this room together,” Montevallo Mayor Hollie Cost said. “This is a community that signifies unity. That’s who we are, that’s what we do, and I’m so proud of that.”

Kathy King, coalition co-leader for the Community Remembrance Project, carries a cross with a wreath during the march in honor of two African-American men who were lynched in Montevallo in 1889.

Cost’s next remarks were met with loud applause. First, she announced that Montevallo native Korey Cunningham, an offensive tackle with the Arizona Cardinals and grand marshal of this year’s Unity March, was selected as one of Montevallo’s Hometown Heroes to be honored at a breakfast in October. Then, Cost read a proclamation designating Jan. 21, 2019, as Korey Cunningham Day in conjunction with Montevallo’s annual observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Korey Cunningham, pictured with NAACP Shelby County Branch President Kenneth Dukes, Master of Ceremony Bobby “CP” Pierson, Montevallo Mayor Hollie Cost and the Rev. Maurice Valentine, holds an Appreciation Award plaque presented to him during Monday’s program.

Korey, the son of Kathy and Kirk Cunningham, is the first person from Montevallo to be drafted in the NFL. He is a 2013 graduate of MHS and a 2017 graduate of the University of Cincinnati. He is undergoing rehabilitation after having foot surgery recently, but his mother said he should be properly healed in time for the start of the new NFL season.

A framed replica of Korey Cunningham’s Arizona Cardinals jersey is unveiled. The jersey will be displayed at Montevallo High School.

As a surprise to Korey, a framed replica of his Cardinals jersey to be hung in a hallway at MHS was unveiled during Monday’s program.

“This will stand in honor of what you mean to Montevallo High School and the city,” NAACP Shelby County Branch President Kenneth Dukes said. “And now, we’re all Arizona Cardinals fans.”

Kathy said it was a proud moment for her and Kirk to see Korey honored for his hard work.

“We’re thankful for the city of Montevallo recognizing him,” she said. “It’s all paid off. We’re still in disbelief that he’s made it to this level in life. He’s so humble and a team person.”

Korey expressed his gratitude, too, and said, “No matter where I go, I always keep Montevallo on my mind, and I’m always praying.”

Pastor W.J. Posey of Coosa Valley Baptist Church in Vincent speaks after receiving the Recipient of the Year award.

Dukes recognized the following individuals as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Making a Difference in the Community Award recipients:

  • Little Miss Madison Williams, praise dancer
  • Pastor W.J. Posey, Coosa Valley Baptist Church, Vincent – Recipient of the Year.
  • Pastor Alex Nelms – Pleasant Chapel AME/St. James AME
  • Pastor Albert Jones – Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Wilton
  • Pastor Lawton Higgs – First United Methodist Church
  • Pastor Sandra Anderson – Grant Chapel AME
  • Pastor Van Houser – New Vision Christian Church
  • Pastor Larry Coleman – Freewill Ministries
  • Pastor Michael Jones – New Mt. Moriah
  • Dr. Brandon Turner – Principal, Montevallo High School
  • Sheila Lewis – Principal, Montevallo Middle School
  • Carla Harrell, retired, Montevallo Elementary School
  • Councilman Ernest Montgomery – Calera
  • Dr. Hattie Holman – Victory Counseling Services
  • Ronnie Harris – Photographer
  • Sha’ron Sharon – Singer
  • Marvin Copes – Shelby RSVP
  • Myrna Woods – Shiloh Place
  • Kelgric Farrington – Law Enforcement

Madison Williams performs a praise dance to open the program.

Other presenters during the program included Master of Ceremony Coach Bobby “CP” Pierson; the Rev. Buddy Freeman, who delivered the opening prayer; and Kathy King, coalition co-leader for the Community Remembrance Project working in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative to install a commemorative marker at or near the site of the lynchings in Montevallo.