Shortly after 9 a.m. on a cold January morning, Port St. Joe residents began to gather under the City Hall Park gazebo holding banners and signs displaying the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and teachings.
Several said it was the largest turnout they had seen at the annual Walking Together parade. As the group marched down Reid Avenue then rounded the corner to walk the entire length of Martin Luther King Boulevard, they used the time to reflect and speak candidly as a community about the city’s history.
In the hours that followed, many of the marchers gathered in the Washington High School Gymnasium for a program celebrating Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy.
“The march towards a world of peace is still in motion,” said the program’s keynote speaker Nikki Clemons, a senior pastor at St. James AME Church in Wewahitchka. “Sometimes it feels like we’re going backwards, but always with the forward goal in mind.”
“And at the call of that movement is the weight of what we call godly love or brotherly love. You see, because love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend… and Dr. King knew well that love is the key to humanity’s survival. What nation can reach the height of its powerful progress without first purging itself of that nasty word – hate.”
Several community organizations helped to put on the event Monday morning by donating their time or resources, including Freedom Exchange Community Development Centers of the Americas Foundation, Inc., the Port St. Joe High School JROTC and the Gulf County regional libraries.
Organizers explained that the Walking Together parade, which they hope will grow into an even larger event in years to come, celebrates the community’s togetherness and provides a space to talk about how to further this togetherness in years to come.
“We honor this great man who had a dream that we would all live together peacefully and where we would be judged by the content of our characters and not the color of our skin.” Clemons said. “He was a man who asked all Americans to work together to solve the nation’s problems.”