Observer & Eccentric
By: Nathan Mueller
There was a celebration of the past with a firm focus on the future at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk in Southfield on Monday.
Hundreds of people made the trek from Hope United Methodist Church to the Southfield Pavilion to honor the legendary civil rights leader and continue working toward achieving his dream of equality for all.
Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence said too often the past is celebrated and people forget the call to action they have before them today.
“There are so many issues that are coming forward we need to stand up and not be silent about,” she said, mentioning equal pay, improving minimum wage, who people choose to love and equal education. “Understand this is the call to action. We know the dream was an amazing start but the task of taking care of each other and making a difference now belongs to us — let’s get to work.”
Southfield has been at the forefront of making a difference, starting the first ever peace walk in 1986 that drew more than 1,000 people.
A standing room only crowd on Monday was treated to several musical performances honoring King that brought the people to their feet, and speakers who talked of celebrations and leaving a legacy. The theme of the event was “From Generation to Generation: Building Bridges of Unity and Understanding.”
Chris Simpson, who is a member of the Southfield-based Omega Psi Phi fraternity, said the outpouring of support is a “testament to what Dr. King represents.”
“He provided us with the freedom to live the way we live,” he said. “And without his help we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Shelia Johnson, 46th District Court Judge, said it is also important they “seek to inspire and enlighten our younger generation.”
“We want to teach them of the man and the legacy, and his commitment to unity and understanding of all people,” she said. “And also how they can apply these teachings in their current lives.”
That message was prevalent in the essays written by the four 2014 MLK Youth Essay Contest Winners.
Erin Bradley, a freshman at Southfield-Lathrup, wrote: “Sometimes giving up things you really don’t need to help others is a great thing – this is something Dr. King taught me. He was willing to give up his freedom to fight for others to be treated equally.”
Keynote speaker William Anderson, who works as the vice president of academic affairs at the Detroit Medical Center, said we still have a long way to go before we can fulfill the part of King’s dream where he says “free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last.”
But the message still remains.
“Don’t stop dreaming,” Anderson said. “Yes the dreamer was killed, but keep the dream alive.”