The Daily Southerner
A parade of citizens at least five people deep and as long as the Tar River Bridge, marched from St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in Tarboro to St. Luke Disciples of Christ Church in Princeville Monday during the annual Edgecombe County Entrepreneurs Commemorative March. As they crossed the bridge separating Tarboro and Princeville, marchers in the middle of the pack began to s[ng old Negro spirituals
The march, a symbolic walk in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., included marchers between the ages of 5 and 65 and lasted approximately a mile-and-a-half. During the Civil Right era, King led several marches including perhaps the most famous in 1963 when he lead thousands to Washington, D.C. where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Carlton Jones, 52, a regular participant in the annual Edgecombe County Commemorative March, reflected on the marches that were organized by Dr. King.
“I wonder how they felt when they marched over the bridge in (the Selma to Montgomery march)” Jones said. “They were marching for a real cause — a cause that they were willing to die for. They were beaten and water hosed. We’re just doing it as symbolism, but I’m glad to be a part of it.”
The commemorative march was one of three MLK events taking place on Monday. Prior to the march, the Unity Breakfast, sponsored by the Edgecombe County Human Relation Committee, was held at the Edgecombe County Administration Building. The Rev. Zina Pittman, associate pastor of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Leggett, was the guest speaker.
Pittman’s speech captivated the standing room only crowd as she kept with the celebration’s theme, “Recognizing our Past, Enduring our Present and Preparing for the Future.”
“It is our past, and our present, and certainly our future that we keep looking to gain strength to continue running this race called life,” she said. “It is our past, our present and our future that we look to for hope. It is our past, our present and our future that we must continue to educate our children about their chance for a brighter tomorrow.”
After the Unity Breakfast, the vast majority of the attendees assembled for the Commemorative March. The numbers didn’t appear as strong as last year’s, however organizers were “pleased with the turnout. For the third consecutive year, St. Paul Baptist Church won first place for the most participants (69). St. Stephen Baptist Church came in second place with 51.
All the marchers reached their destination well before noon, when the final program, “Lunch with the King” began.
North Edgecombe ROTC instructor retired Army Maj. Melvin Davis was the keynote speaker at that event. Davis urged the parents to become responsible by going to the school to demand better for their children. He also urged them go beyond the walls of the MLK services to fight against racial injustices.
“The music was good,” he told the audience. “You were shouting and you were motivated. Now. it’s time for you for you to go to work. You must move from the pews to the pavement.”
Tarboro town council member Taro Knight agreed with Davis.
“I’ve gone to six different events throughout the county this week,” he said. “The one Saturday night is the one I can take something from and try to put it in action.
“It is great to get my spirit lifted in these programs, but I challenge people to read Dr. King’s speeches. You knew just by his works that he was a man of God. But we have some issues here where God put us on this earth to solve. What I would like to see for us starting Jan. 22, for us to start solving some of those issues. Rather its educaiton, economic rather its crime we got to do some concrete.”
Edgecombe County high school choirs under the direction of Kristian Herring rendered the music. The choir also song old Negro Gospel and a rendition of Yolanda Adams “Still I’ll Rise.”
The Rev. Eric Crowe was the honorary chairman of the entire celebration that began Dec. 6 with the oratorical contest. The Commemorative Worship Service on Jan. 13 at Eastern Star Baptist Church was the second event. On Saturday the Commemorative Banquet was held and Monday the event ended with the breakfast, march and “Lunch with the King.”
“Beginning with the worship service it was inspiring,” he said on Monday after the “Lunch with the King” service. “Today was the perfect culmination of the celebration. It was one of my highlights of my 10 years in Tarboro. That was before the service. After the service I will say it is the highlight. It was phenomenal. I’m looking forward to next year.”
Linda Knight, Edgecombe Entrepreneur president, is also looking forward to next year. With each of the events filled to nearly capacity, the organization may have some problem.
“We are going to have to think about the accommodations for next year because it may be a problem — a good problem,” she said.