Tuesday, January 22, 2013
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MLK holiday inspires people to keep the dream alive (with photo gallery)

Speakers encouraged children to believe in themselves and be inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.

Amaia Rosoborough, 8, smiles as she looks at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Roanoke. Amaia was one of several hundred who participated in a Southern Christian Leadership Conference Youth Day Celebration march Monday in honor of King.

Kyle Green | The Roanoke Times

Amaia Rosoborough, 8, smiles as she looks at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Roanoke. Amaia was one of several hundred who participated in a Southern Christian Leadership Conference Youth Day Celebration march Monday in honor of King.

Photo gallery: See more photos from Monday's march.


Despite the cool breeze outside, about 80 people gathered at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge in downtown Roanoke on Monday to march in honor of King's accomplishments. It also became a celebration of the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

The march, an annual event sponsored by the Roanoke chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, went from the bridge at Salem Avenue and First Street to First Baptist Church on Jefferson Avenue. The march was included as part of a Youth Day Celebration, also an annual event.

Bishop Edward Mitchell, president of the SCLC, said the march keeps King's dream alive. "It keeps young people knowing what the struggle was," he said.

Mitchell said he hoped youth in the community would celebrate King's work as well as Obama's.

"I am thankful that we can see from Dr. King to where we are now," he said.

Just before the William Fleming High School marching band kicked off the march from the statue of King, a group of children performed a short song. "Dr. King had a dream for you and me," they sang, "President Obama is that dream."

Many children participated in the march. Sixth-grader Jasmine Jordan and seventh-graders She'Lyn Jordan and Chakeyla Finney, all students at James Breckinridge Middle School, and Ayeisha Phillippi, a fifth-grader at Crystal Spring Elementary School, came as part of their youth praise team at Jerusalem Baptist Church.

"I wanted to come because it was a celebration of Dr. King," Chakeyla said.

"We wouldn't be standing here if it wasn't for him," Ayeisha added.

"It's inspiring that he did all that for us," She'Lyn said.

"He was a blessing for others," Jasmine agreed.

Roanoke City Councilwoman Anita Price also joined the march; she said she comes every year. She wore a button on her coat that featured photos of King and Obama and wore a scarf bearing Obama's name.

"It's great that today is coinciding with the inauguration," she said.

Price said she and some her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters had collected nonperishable foods at the Kroger near Crossroads Mall for military families as a service project before the march. Price estimated the sorority had collected about a dozen carts full of food.

Price said doing community service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day is important to demonstrate to children.

"We lead by example," she said.

Once the march reached First Baptist Church, city Councilman Sherman Lea opened the program.

"Today is the birthday of Martin Luther King, but also we are celebrating the inauguration of our 44th president," Lea said. "I think he's not going to be the only African-American president."

Focusing on the Youth Day theme, Lea encouraged children to believe in themselves and be inspired by people like King and Obama. "You can be president, you can be in Congress," he said. "You can be what you want to be."

Local author Judi Love Bowman gave an address after her son, 17-year-old Ollie Howie, a senior at William Fleming, read King's famous "I have a dream" speech.

Howie, along with Patrick Henry High School senior David Prince, were honored with an award from the SCLC. Howie has been accepted early to Harvard University, while Prince has committed to attend Virginia Tech to play football.

"It's good to commemorate Dr. King," Howie said before the march, "and for youth to know where they come from."

Bowman's address was aimed at the many children and youth in the audience. She passed out mirrors to them and encouraged them to see themselves in a positive way.

"See yourself as strong, valuable, talented and beautiful on the inside," she said. She also encouraged youth to "be a God pleaser, not a people pleaser."

After Bowman's message, the SCLC also honored Ted Edlich, the president of Total Action for Progress, with a Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service award. Edlich also helped to erect the life-size statue of King where the march began.

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