MLK Day: Residents see King’s impact in tour of Middletown locations

Local residents celebrate MLK Day by taking in Middletown Freedom Tour.

MIDDLETOWN — Instead of marching down streets on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Middletown residents toured several locations in the city that signify the important contributions made by the Black community.

There were 11 stops on the Middletown Freedom Tour, and several people started at the Robert “Sonny” Hill Jr. Community Center and took part in the Reflection Walk that featured some of King’s thoughts that were taped on the walls.

Scotty Robertson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Middletown, brought his daughter, 7-year-old Karlee, to the community center.

When asked why he participated in Monday’s event, Robertson said: “It’s important that we as a community understand our history as it concerns the struggle for civil rights and equal opportunity right here in Middletown. It’s important for us as a community to continue to come together to dream and to vision about what the future can be.”

Robertson, who has been at First Baptist for five years, said it’s also imperative that people use King’s dreams and “take the necessary steps to make that vision come into reality.”

Middletown City Manager Paul Lolli, who walked around the center with Rodney Muterspaw, the former police chief who’= is a member of city council, said he was there to learn more about the history of King, who was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.

“It’s not the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, but to me I have read several of his speeches, and in those speeches, there’s always messages for everybody,” Lolli said. “His writings and his actions are extremely passionate and put us in a direction we all need to go.”

He was asked what lesson the country can take from King, whose leadership in the Civil Rights movement was pivotal in helping to end entrenched segregation for African-Americans and to the Civil Rights Act of 1964

“For everybody to come together and get along regardless of the color of our skin,” he said.

Charlene Dorn, a Middletown native who lives in Monroe, said MLK Day always is a time to “celebrate King’s legacy.”

She said through King’s actions, advancements were made. And now, nearly 55 years after his death, some struggles continue. Now is not the time for the country to step backward, she said.

“He opened the doors for us to do a lot of thing that’s going on now,” said Dorn, who brought her sister, daughter, grandson and great-nephew to the community center. “We are here to hopefully keep those doors open.”

As some children walked around the center, Marie Edwards, director of the Out of School Program at Community Building Institute, talked to them about some of King’s messages and how they relate to their lives. She tried to take King’s words and make them relevant.

“They didn’t know Martin Luther King,” she said. “But they told me, when I asked what they learned, they wanted people to not be rude and to be nice.”

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