March on Rockingham, other MLK activities a go

January 9, 2014

Matt Harrelson

Staff Writer

ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond County Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration is on go and all plans are set.

The MLK steering committee, who is in charge of the four day event, held its final meeting on Thursday before the festivities kick off on Jan. 17.

All aspects of the event were covered and read aloud so questions could be answered and final thoughts and concerns could be discussed. Over 1,000 flyers have been sent out and all local radio stations have been notified of the events, said Chairman J. C. Watkins, so the committee is expecting big numbers.

Some of the highlights of the King extravaganza will be the prayer breakfast at 9 a.m. on Jan. 18 at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital in Rockingham. According to Watkins, there will not be a specific speaker.

“We would like a broad spectrum of religious groups present,” Watkins said. “We want people representing different faiths to speak.”

Also of note during the weekend will be the Ecumenical service at 7 p.m. on Jan. 19 at Outreach for Jesus Church in Hamlet. The guest speaker will be Rev. Patricia Sykes of East Rockingham Methodist Church and music will be provided by the Martin Luther King Jr./J. C. Watkins Choir which will be led by Dr. Brooksie Harrington.

Committee member Rev. James Smith sees this part of the ceremonies as the most important.

“We ask that all churches send ushers. Not just there to usher but to celebrate the cause,” Smith said. “This is the essence of the celebration.”

A major portion of the celebration will be the Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative parade/march at 10 a.m. on Jan. 20. Participants are asked to assemble at 9:30 a.m. at the Leath Memorial Library for line-up assignments. The march will be begin at the corner of East Washington Street and Rockingham Road and proceed to the steps of the Richmond County Courthouse for a brief service.

Committee member Curtis Ingram said the city changed the way to get a permit to gather in front of the courthouse but they have the permit and the parade is “ready to go.” Anyone wishing to sign up a group for the parade can contact Brian David at 910-417-8645.

Watkins drew from personal history in regards to the march when he told a story of this committee’s inception in the 1980s. When a small group marched in front of the school board building in Hamlet to show their support of Martin Luther King Jr., and the first legal holiday observance began in Richmond County in 1985.

“What an impression it would make if we could have 1,000 people marching on that day,” said Watkins. “Encourage people to be in the march to show we appreciate what he (MLK) did, not only for black people, but for America and the world.”