The weather was brisk and the walk was long, but for those who took part Monday morning, it was a day that warmed hearts and uplifted the community.
Apalachicola’s 35th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, entirely outdoors, went off smoothly, beginning with a motorcade from the Holy Family Senior Center to Battery Park, its long queue of cars and golf carts interspersed with walkers, bundled up in the 50 degree weather.
Under the direction of the celebration’s advisory, chaired by Dolores Croom, the Battery Park celebration got underway with an opening selection by JD Music, under the direction of Jhaki Davis
Pastor David Walker, who served as the master of ceremonies, took a moment to give a shout-out to Apostle Shirley White, from the Love Center, who was an original founder of the local celebration tradition.
The program got underway with an invocation by Bishop Robert Davis.
“We realize God that we need your divine intervention even today,” he said. “We pray, God, that your grace will cover these United States of America. We pray today, God, that all of the divisiveness, all of the issues that come against this nation with the people, we pray for the peace of God, which passes all understanding, that he will take complete control over every life. We pray for peace, God, in all the communities that are facing devastation.
“We pray that you heal our land, individually and as a nation, and we thank you, God, that we can come together and celebrate not only Dr. King, but we can celebrate you as King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” Davis said.
Tami Ray-Hutchinson then sang “God Bless America,” followed by the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by Thea Croom and the pledge to the Christian flag by Janiyah Bell.
Apalachicola Mayor Brenda Ash then offered a welcome.
“We are here to celebrate and honor one of America’s greatest treasures, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an inspirer, a motivator, a bridge-building architect, a God-fearing activist who paved the way for so many, regardless of race, nationality, economic status, creed, or gender,” she said.
“In one of his famous speeches, he asked ‘What is your life’s blueprint?’ So today, I ask you the same. What is your life blueprint? Is your blueprint self-serving? Or one of unselfish design? Does it include self-worth and value, determination and courage, commitment and justice?” Ash said.
“The all-female commission of the historic city of Apalachicola appreciates and embraces the diversity of this wonderful community. We are commissioned to serve you, the residents, in mind,” she said. “We believe Dr. King’s philosophy that whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. We endorse his legacy and shall continuously make every effort to walk together in love and in unity, with respect and dignity for each other.”
The highlight of the program followed, a rousing performance by Michael Grady, Sr. and the NuGulf Coast Choir.
Elinor Mount-Simmons, a member of the celebration’s advisory board, then acknowledged the many elected officials who took part in the celebration, taking a moment to cite retired Franklin County educator Lorine Banks, who as a college student walked in 1965 with Dr. King.
County Judge Gordon Shuler, also a member of the advisory board, offered a closing prayer.
“We thank you, Lord, for the leadership, courage and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and we ask for you to fill us with your love, and to give us hearts that burn for justice,” he said. “We know God that you are a father to all, that your eyes seek out and reveal all oppression and ensure justice will prevail.
“We pray, God, for your Holy Spirit to convict us that we show no partiality based on race as we know you do not,” said Shuler. “We pray, Lord, that everyone be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. We know by your word that love never fails. We know hate cannot overcome hate. Only love can do that.”