King’s legacy remembered as focus turns to future

On the march: The annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade wound its way through Clanton on Monday. The parade ended at the Head Start building at E.M. Henry Park in the West End community. A program featured guest speaker Jefferson Varner III, among others, and performances by the gospel group Favored.

On the march: The annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade wound its way through Clanton on Monday. The parade ended at the Head Start building at E.M. Henry Park in the West End community. A program featured guest speaker Jefferson Varner III, among others, and performances by the gospel group Favored.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of furthering civil rights was remembered on Monday, a holiday celebrated in his honor.

But another focus of the parade and program held in Clanton was developing a next set of leaders to take up the cause to which King devoted his life.

Ervin Mickens of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Shelby County served as the grand marshal of a parade that began the day’s festivities by winding through downtown Clanton and then over to the Head Start building at E.M. Henry Park in the West End community, the site of a program that lasted longer than an hour.

Mickens told the audience that adults have to set examples for youth.

“We’ve got to put ourselves in position to go forward, not back,” Mickens said. “We need to look out for others just as well as we do ourselves.”

Several other speakers took turns behind the microphone.

Evangelist Ellen Craig stressed the importance of persistence.

“Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream, and he didn’t let his dream go without being fulfilled,” she said. “Young people: hold onto your dreams.”

Chilton County Schools Superintendent Dave Hayden talked about the role education played in King’s success.

“He always said that education is the key,” Hayden said. “Young people are our community.”

Jimmy Rudolph asked youth in attendance to repeat, “I am somebody…I will succeed,” then pleaded with them to avoid violence, which he said results from ignorance.

“Ignorance destroys nations,” Rudolph said.

The Rev. Larry Sailes from Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church paraphrased one of King’s messages.

“If you have to say something about me, say that I tried to love somebody,” Sailes said. “You have to have love to make a change.”

The parade and program, which was held for the 14th time, was organized by Robert and Jessie Binion.

Robert Binion served as emcee, while Lucy Binion read a list of community members who have passed in the last year.

The gospel music group Favored performed two songs during the program.

The last to take the stage was the guest speaker, Jefferson Varner III.

Varner told a story about being in a foreign country as part of his role in the military when he was approached by a native of the country.

Varner told the man he was from Alabama, and after thinking for a bit, the man said King’s name, connecting the icon to the state.

“’I have a dream too…to be an American,’” the man said, according to Varner. “We live in a society second to none.

“Dr. King did a lot for us, but we still have to do a lot for ourselves.”

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