Butler County communities honor King, not swayed by cold

Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks can no longer push to improve human rights, so it’s up to those alive now to build on their achievements, argued the key note speaker at Hamilton’s annual march.

In Hamilton, West Chester, Middletown and elsewhere across Butler and Warren counties, people overcame frigid temperatures to observe Martin Luther King Day on Monday with marches, musical programs and efforts to help the needy.

In the Civil Rights struggle, “the work that still remains, Rosa Parks can’t do, Dr. King can’t do,” the Rev. B. Wayne McLaughlin, associate minister at Zion Baptist Church in Chillicothe, told the post-march audience at Payne Chapel AME Church in Hamilton.

“But as they’re gone … don’t let it just be a history lesson,” McLaughlin said. “We must realize that we are somebody, as God made us. We want Him to send us to do the work.”

McLaughlin spoke to a crowd after a 45-minute march through Hamilton from the Booker T. Washington Community Center, up Front Street, east on High Street, south on Martin Luther King Boulevard and west on Ludlow Street to Payne Chapel.

More than 60 people overcame sub-zero wind chills to march and were joined by others at the church. James Singletary, 46, of Hamilton, felt the cold made this year’s march all the more gratifying.

“Martin paved the way for us, so of course I figure it ain’t that bad for me to be walking out here on a cold day like this, after what he did for us,” Singletary said. “You’ve got a lot of good people out here braving the cold weather.”

“It’s one of the coldest, but not the coldest” among three decades of Hamilton marches, said the Rev. Victor Davis, the event’s founder. “I can’t remember the year, but there was one year when we had had severe snow and ice, and it was below zero. And we walked anyhow.

“We walked in the rain, the sleet, the snow, sub-zero, so today, compared to then, is a heat wave,” he added.

Those at the church made donations to a scholarship fund for high-achieving academic Hamilton High School seniors Tanisha Holmes and Dezhane Rodriguez.

In West Chester Twp., about 100 shivering, hand-holding, singing people converged at the clock tower at The Square @ Union Centre at noon. Tina Cartwright, speaking through a blow horn, reminded them why they were there.

“We march today because we are King’s dream,” she said. “We are walking hand-in-hand, white, black, yellow, brown, rich, poor, young, old, men, women and children. We represent the unity of our community. We march because we care and we want to continue the work of Dr. Martin Luther King. We want our community to be a community that does not judge by the color of our skin but by the content of each person’s character.”

Then, carrying signs and singing “We shall overcome” they set off down Centre Pointe Drive toward Union Centre Boulevard and came around, ending at Lakota West High School for a luncheon. Scott Markland was there with a group from Sinclair Community College in Mason and his 8-year-old son, Sean.

“His message then is universal, it applies to things that are happening right now in our world,” he said. “Even though it’s technically a federal holiday, we take this as a day not off, but a day to remember and apply lessons learned from Dr. King’s dream to what we’re trying to do as a college and what we’re trying to do as people.”

While the adults were all shivering in the cold, Sean declared he wasn’t cold at all and took his hat off and threw it in the air.

This was Paula Rudolph’s first time at the West Chester march.

“It is very important because Dr. King gave his life for the dream,” she said. “It is important we continue the dream.”

Community members from Liberty and West Chester townships organized the march and were also scheduled to stage the Live the Dream: Declaration of Unity program Monday night at Cornerstone Church in Liberty Twp.

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