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‘Walking together in peace’

Tim Croft
The Star

On what has also come to be known as a “National Day of Service,” the community will continue its long march toward social justice on Monday on the national Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The day marks the birthday of the civil rights pioneer.

The annual parade, “A Walk Together”, will begin at 10 a.m. ET (line-up begins at 9 a.m. ET) Monday and will be followed by festivities at the Washington High School Gym at Peters Park.

The emphasis, said Rev. Tommy Curtis, the organizer of the event which finally added a community celebration to what he called a “day on instead of a day off,” is bridging gaps while restoring and renewing after Hurricane Michael.

“Dr. King, I think, would be pleased that we are doing something to work together to make the world a better place,” Curtis said.

And King’s dreams of a nation working together across color lines, Curtis added, is needed now more than ever given national and local divides.

As the signs for the event he designed proclaim, “Freedom is not Free” and they encourage one and all to join in a celebration in the spirit of “peace, harmony and social justice.”

“We have to know how to talk and discuss things and how to broach (the divide) together,” Curtis said.

The parade line-up will begin City Hall and there is a reason City Hall, on the so-called south side of town, was chosen.

“We all start at City Hall where we all have to pay our water bills,” Curtis said. “We generally have more white people at that point and pick up more people as we get to the north side of town.”

The parade travels down Reid, takes a right on First Street to Dr. David B. Langston Drive, left onto Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and ends at Avenue G.

A motorcade will follow behind those walking.

The festivities move to the Washington High School Gymnasium (there will be shuttles available) at 11 a.m. ET for free food, socializing, youth sacred dancing presentations and a keynote speaker.

The speaker will be Henry Lawrence, a former All-Pro lineman for the Oakland Raiders and two-time Super Bowl winner who has gone on to become a motivational speaker and philanthropist who also operates a youth foundation.

Each activity, Curtis said, is focused on the central themes of Dr. King’s life.

All community service organizations may establish a presence at the gym, pre-registration required.

The event has grown steadily since its inception in just a few years, filling a void when no community-wide celebration for the national holiday existed.

Curtis and his wife, Cora, frustrated by what they heard about “north and south” when attending city meetings, decided to take matters into their hands.

“I thought are we all not Port St. Joe,” Curtis said.

The couple purchased signs, received approval for the parade and festivities and took it from there.

And the celebration has quickly become an annual milestone.

“Why we do this is to bring people of all colors in the county together for one day,” Curtis said.