‘A true bridge-builder:’ King’s legacy honored in march, program

Published 2:58 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2022

By EMILY SPARACINO | Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – Dozens of residents gathered in downtown Montevallo for an annual event honoring the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, Jan. 17.

Presented by the Shelby County NAACP Unit 50AB and the Dr. M.L. King Jr. Commemorative Committee, this year’s program returned to an in-person format after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted organizers to cancel the traditional unity march and assembly last year and hold a virtual program instead.

Joseph Hampton, president of Spire Energy for Alabama and Mississippi, served as grand marshal.

“All of us have heard the many stories of Dr. King throughout our lives, from the leading of the Montgomery bus boycott as a young minister all the way back in 1955, to the march on Washington, D.C., and his ‘I have a dream’ speech in 1963, to the march from Selma to Montgomery to ensure we all have the right to vote in 1965, to his death in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968 when he was taken away from us far, far too soon,” Hampton said. “The stories of his vision, love for his fellow man and passion for people has been an inspiration to all of us for many, many years.”

Hampton said everyone has the opportunity to be more like King every day and bring unity to their communities.

“Dr. King was a man who practiced and preached non-violence,” Hampton said. “He is the perfect example of what turning the other cheek to those who intentionally want to do you harm is all about.”

Hampton said King wanted unity and equal opportunity for all.

“Today, many of our communities are fractured due to the inequalities that have persisted in our state and our country for far too long,” he said. “Although the fight for equity and inclusion has improved in recent years, we still have a long way to go. We must continue to share the message that Dr. King shared in his ‘I have a dream’ speech—the desire for all men and women to be created equal, and for people to not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Hampton said the following five steps can help with building strong, unified communities:

1 – Look for ways to help.

2 – Give people the benefit of the doubt.

3 – Focus on the positive.

4 – Respect and honor our elders.

5 – Share our wisdom.

“I believe our ability to make the world a better place by helping those in need is the way Dr. King lived his life every day,” Hampton said. “He laid down his life for us to have opportunities that he himself wasn’t afforded. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a true bridge-builder.”

Councilmember Lelia Mitchell said Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day in which service and history should be the focus.

“It’s an honor that we keep the dream alive, it’s an honor that we march for things that are right and that our children know the real reason for this day,” Mitchell said. “Let us learn about justice, about freedom, about doing the right thing.”

Mayor Rusty Nix thanked the Rev. Kenneth Dukes and Bobby J. Pierson for leading efforts to keep Montevallo’s MLK march and program going for so many years.

“Montevallo is a very unique and diverse community,” Nix added. “We look out for one another. Our local elected government is the most diverse elected government in the history of Montevallo. That’s something that’s great.”

Before closing the program, Dukes and Pierson presented Community Service Awards to the following recipients:

  • Joseph Hampton, president, Alabama and Mississippi Spire Energy (speaker)
  • Harris Pride #437, Order of the Eastern Star, Montevallo
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Psi Xi Omega Chapter, Shelby County
  • Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. Beta Mu Nu Chapter, Shelby County
  • Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Psi Upsilon Zeta Chapter
  • Cissy Johnson, director of Montevallo Middle and High Schools Combined Choir
  • Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Birmingham Chapter
  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Nu Tau Chapter
  • Cheryl Allen, assistant principal, Montevallo High School
  • Pat Johnson, The Mission Continues, Birmingham Platoon
  • Robert Gray, Jr., student at Miles College
  • Parker Mitchell, student at Thompson High School