Dayton MLK crowd hears message of peace, forgiveness

Hundreds of residents marched in downtown Dayton on Monday to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and his message of peace and unity.

The annual MLK march and rally began at Charles R. Drew Health Center and ended at the Dayton Convention Center.

The large crowd chanted while walking down Fifth Street towards the convention center. The marchers were diverse and chanted messages of unity and hope. Many held signs that said “Making Dayton Better” or “Dayton Strong.”

Once at the convention center, a celebration of King’s life took place. King, a husband, pastor, scholar and father of four children, was born Jan. 15, 1929, and died April 4, 1968, after being shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.

Those who marched and took part in the event said it’s worth remembering King and his message.

“It’s a great gathering and lets us create close relationships with more people,” Tyler Brown said. “It’s nice to have a day where everyone can come together as one and that’s good.”

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He said King is a person to honor.

“Dr. King was a role model. You learn about him in school and from there on you bond with him more and more,” he said. “When you get older, you really learn what he did for us, and it’s good to know that.”

Forgiveness was also the theme of the march.

“If we cannot forgive our enemies, then how does God forgive us?” said one marcher. “It’s very important as we move forward, that we have the right in this great country to be all we can be. It shouldn’t matter what color we are, what language we speak or how we look.”

Anthony Whitmore, president of MLK Dayton Inc., said forgiveness leads to happiness and a stronger community.

“You can’t understand what love is before understanding forgiveness,” he said. “So many of us hold onto misperceptions, or we have a negative experience, and now we generalize for the rest of our lives, we live with that lie. At the end of the day, when you learn to forgive, it’s not for the other person — forgiveness is for you. So you can move on and achieve those things that you need to do in your life.”

He said the events were a success and said MLK Dayton will continue to host events throughout the year.

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The event at the convention center featured speakers who praised King’s message and called for Dayton to unite. Poems about discrimination and a hope for a better future were read, and government leaders said they are committed to continuing to work to further desegregate the city.

“We have a lot to celebrate this year, but we have a lot of work to do to make sure our community continues to fight against a community that is too segregated and too unequal,” Mayor Dayton Nan Whaley said. “We are going to do that work every single day, and we at the city are committed to doing that effort.”

Along with celebrating King, speakers also encouraged residents to participate in the 2020 census because a good count for city residents can mean more public resources moving forward.

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