“[Dr. King impacted my life] in a great way because it’s so different, so much has changed from the way I was brought up,” Bessie Green said prior to the march. “I am 91 years old, so so much has changed since I was growing up. [For example,] the school system — segregation has changed.
“Where I had to walk to school, the other race was riding a bus, passing by us on the way. So that’s a change,” she said, adding King was instrumental in forging improvements in race relations.
On Monday, the Cartersville couple led the procession, which started and ended at the Cartersville Civic Center, pausing in the middle for a ceremony at the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center.
Born in Atlanta on Jan. 15, 1929, King was the leader of the Civil Rights Movement for nearly 13 years — December 1955 until he was assassinated April 4, 1968.
A federal and state holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day recognizes King’s birthday and is celebrated on the third Monday in January. Along with Bartow residents, local government officials also participated in Monday’s observance. In addition to a ceremony being held at the courthouse, Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor and Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini signed a proclamation to mark its significance.
After reading the names of community leaders who have passed away in the last year, Taylor then read the proclamation, which stated, “... Dr. King’s example stirred men and women of all backgrounds to become foot soldiers for justice, and his leadership and timeless words of inspiration gave them the courage to refuse limitations of the day and fight for the prospect of tomorrow; and whereas; in the generations to come, if Dr. King’s example is followed, then the great ideals that he so nobly sought and his faith in a God who loves all his children and a nation grounded in the promise of equality would not let him rest until victory was won; and whereas; in keeping with Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, let us embrace the belief that our destiny is shared, accept our obligations to each other and [to] future generations, and strengthen the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on earth.”
Following Taylor’s address, Santini highlighted King’s legacy of service and challenged attendees to assist their fellow Bartow neighbors and loved ones.
“I call on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King and say that ‘everybody can be great because anybody can serve,’” Santini said. “And again, I’ll ask ... what are you doing to serve others? We all know — I’m guilty of it just like I’m sure many of you are — that there are opportunities around us every single day where we can serve others, yet we often spend more time and effort avoiding the chance to serve than we actually do doing the serving. I’m going to ask you to join me in this challenge, where over the next 30 days you take the time to do one thing to serve others.
“It doesn’t have to be something big. It can be as simple as a smile or hello to a stranger, helping a neighbor, an extra strong hug to a loved one. It can be picking up some litter along the street or not littering if you’re one of those people that do that from time to time. You can choose to volunteer for a charity event, something that makes someone’s life better or this community better. At the end of the day, write it down, think about how you’re making a difference and how you’re keeping the legacy of service that Dr. King preached, keeping that legacy alive today.”
The King Holiday Weekend Celebration started Sunday with a 6 p.m. candlelight service at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, which included the Rev. Louis Tonsmeire as the keynote speaker. At the ceremony, the Drum Major Award, which honors community service, was presented to Linda Kellogg, chairperson of the local Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, and Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center Curator Marian Coleman.
The festivities continued on Monday with a youth rally at 10 a.m. at St. Luke A.M.E. Church. Following the Brotherhood March and a wreath-laying ceremony, the two days of activities were culminated with a Brotherhood March Program that featured a message from the Rev. John S. Lampley, youth pastor at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church.