MLK Day March to change route this year

Christopher Harris I CJ

At the end of Monday's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day March, a celebration will be held at South Maple Street First Baptist Church, at 2 p.m.

The downtown Martin Luther King, Jr. Day March has been part of the local fabric for some time now.

In recent years, it's actually gone across the bridge bearing Dr. King's name, connecting Monticello Street to South Main Street.

This year, things will be a little bit different.

Kathy Townsend of the City of Somerset told the Commonwealth Journal that this year's march would take place Monday, January 20, beginning at the Pulaski County Public Library.

Typically, the march takes participants north across the bridge to High Street Baptist Church, where a few words are spoken. People from all races who admire Dr. King's legacy take part, singing music associated with the Civil Rights movement, and often carrying signs displaying messages of peace and racial equality.

This time, however, the march will start at the library parking lot and go north up Main Street to the Davis Chapel AME Church, at the corner of North Main and East Oak Street. They'll then come around and back down to South Maple Street First Baptist Church, behind the library on South Maple Street, where a celebration event will be held at 2 p.m.

People will start gathering at the library for the march around noon or 12:30 p.m., said Townsend, and they would leave at about 1 p.m.

Townsend said they changed the route this year because of having the Unity Breakfast in Wayne County in the morning and then the South Maple Street First Baptist Church service that afternoon, making for a busy schedule that would be more spread out if the march went across the bridge like normal.

"It makes it where everyone can come back and enjoy the program," said Townsend, who added that this way, "we don't have to shut the bridge down."

The City of Somerset had significant input this year on the organization of the annual march.

Lynn Cunningham of South Maple Street First Baptist said that the event at the church would be a "historical musical celebration to commemorate (King's) legacy." It would be a work of cooperation between four churches here in the local area, including South Maple (which is celebrating its 100th year), Davis Chapel AME, Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church on Bourbon Road, and Trinity Fellowship Church on Harvey Avenue. Cunningham noted that the first three are "historically African-American" congregations.

Speaking at the celebration will be the ministers of those four churches, and a Unity Choir made up of the four churches will perform the song "Glory" by John Legend and Common from the film "Selma," which tells the story of Dr. King and the Selma to Montgomery Marches in Alabama. Other musical selections will reflect the history of the African-American struggle for equality, "from slavery to the Civil Rights time," noted Cunningham.

The public is invited to attend the celebration.

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