By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Nearly 46 years after civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, people gather in American cities and towns on the third Monday of January, to celebrate the life of one whose vision of equality for all changed laws, changed lives and abolished the kind of institutionalized racial discrimination that had been the norm for decades. Advocating peaceful civil disobedience such as sit-ins, marches and boycotts, King and his followers began to see some of the changes they advocated, but the road was long and often hard. Rev. Charles Evans, pastor of Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church, and the speaker for the MLK event, cited the example of the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott. For over a year, many black citizens of Montgomery, who had depended on the buses to get to work and run errands, made do with walking, riding bicycles, using taxis operated by other black citizens or carpooling. After a while, local insurance companies were pressured to drop policies for the vehicles used in carpools, and the city began to crack down on taxis that offered rides for the same money a bus fare would have cost. This continued for 381 days. “That took sacrifice,” said Evans. “That took commitment. That took courage.” But, he added, it began to change the hearts of the people and some officials. The boycott eventually led to victory, and city bus seating was desegregated. Out of that, came the Southern Leadership Conference, a group committed to furthering change through non-violent protest – even though the changes were a long time coming and sometimes came at a very high cost. Eventually, it led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Three civil rights workers were killed. Nearly four years later, on April 4, 1968, King himself was also killed, but the tide of change kept rolling and the dream continued. Indeed, “The Dream Continues”was the theme for the Madison celebration. People gathered outside of Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church Monday morning – individuals, families, the young and the old, from ministers and leaders, to public employees and officials, to educators and other professionals, to retirees, members of civic clubs and groups of school children. They assembled for prayer and walked to the courthouse several blocks away, singing, “Amen,” “This Little Light Of Mine,”
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