Record numbers attend 22nd Annual MLK WalkBy JAMES PHILLIPS,
A record number of people braved the cold to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the 22nd annual MLK Walk in Forest on Monday. The temperature was near freezing but the sun was out and the mood was jovial as more than 100 walkers turned out to celebrate the life of Dr. King and to keep his dream alive. King devoted the better part of his life fighting for equality for all regardless of race, creed or gender and it was clear that his legacy is alive and well here in Scott County as walkers honored and celebrated him with the 4.5 mile walk through the city streets.
Walkers were escorted by members from the Forest Police Department, Scott County Sheriff’s Office and the Forest Fire Department as they started and ended the walk at the Slaughter Library on Jones Street. The roundtrip included stops at the Scott County Courthouse and the Forest Services Center to invoke God’s presence and blessing.
Walk Marshal Dr. Sheldon Graves of Memphis said he was honored to be a part of the annual event. “It was a true honor to be the Walk Marshall of this wonderful event and to be part of such a wonderful celebration of a great man,” Graves said. “Dr. King worked his entire life in the attempt to find equality for everyone in this country and celebrations like we were part of today here in Forest show that his dream and the work he started is still at work throughout this country”
The annual walk was attended by all ages and was a bi-racial celebration of the Civil Rights leader that set the foundation and lead the push for equal rights in this country. Walk Organizer Constance Slaughter-Harvey said that some walkers traveled from as far away as Loras College in Iowa to participate in the walk. “What a wonderful way to celebrate the life and work of Dr. King, we had participants come all the way from Iowa to be part of our 22nd annual walk,” Slaughter-Harvey said. “We had locals, out-of-towners, younger, older, black, white and Hispanic walkers who all came together to walk in solidarity to celebrate and honor the work of Dr. King and to keep his dream alive.”
After braving the cold temps during the walk participants were treated to an Official Program upon their return to Slaughter Library. The program included multiple speakers highlighted by Forest Alderwoman Cynthia Melton, Forest School Board Member Charles Longmire and Legacy President and Walk Organizer Slaughter-Harvey. The program was the culmination of the day’s celebration and honoring of Dr. King and a beacon that shows his work is still ongoing in the local community.
“Having kept the Walk going for over 20 years is a testament to the efforts of many people in our local community who respect and honor what Dr. King stood for during his life which, among many other things, included peaceful respect for equality and improving society by non-violent methods,” Slaughter-Harvey said. “Today’s walk served to continue the optimistic outlook and hope about moving forward to become a better country, state and county.”
Slaughter-Harvey said that this year’s walk would not have been possible without the help and support of the local government and especially the support and participation from local first responders. “We salute our law enforcement officers and firemen for both their protective assistance and their participation in this year’s Walk,” said Slaughter-Harvey. “This walk would not be the success it is without the support of our local officials. We could not have kept this annual celebration of Dr King going for over 20 years without their continued support and participation.”
After the early morning walk and ceremonies there was additional programs held in the Forest. Hawkins Middle School in Forest hosted the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have A Dream” Program in the Dr. Marshall Longmire Gym in the afternoon. Many of those participating in the annual walk also attended the program at the school.
After another successful year of walking in honor and remembrance of Dr. King the community and MLK Walk organizers will begin looking forward and prepping for the 2020 walk that will mark the 23rd annual celebration of the Civil Rights leader. Dr. King’s legacy and dream is still alive and at work here in Scott County and looks to continue on for many years and walks to come.