Crowds march the streets of Valdosta to celebrate Dr. King

By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 20, 2020

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- Crowds marched through Valdosta Monday to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, hoping to continue inspiring change.

The march around Valdosta State University is a tradition, organized by the university chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha and NAACP.

It was a cold morning on the South Georgia streets Monday, but students were fired up about getting involved in the community and promoting civic engagement.

Monday's march was just one of a full weekend of events to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. On Saturday students participated in service projects, and on Sunday they hosted a worship service with guest speakers.

All the events were a way to recognize that the work started by Dr. King isn't done.

Every step taken Monday helped to keep his message alive.

"He was all about empowering his people, but not only empowering his people but being a servant," said Gerald Thomas III with Alpha Phi Alpha. "That's what this weekend was all about, serving and empowering people around us."

The march is also a chance to light a fire in the community to stand up for each other, and their beliefs.

NAACP President Lauren Williams said she can still feel racial tensions in Valdosta, and on campus. Events like these, she said, can help raise awareness and break down those barriers.

"He marched, he used his voice, he used his people around him to really make an impact. So to me, a part of continuing his dream is making sure we things like this, not only just once a year but continuing to use our voice throughout the year," Williams said. "It doesn't stop, this issue of social injustice wasn't something that was just a fifties and sixties problem. It's still a problem today and we should still fight for what is right."

Following the march, organizers held a voter registration drive with the non-profit, Black Voters Matter. About a dozen student organizations joined forces for the I Have a Dream Student Voter Registration Drive. Drawing crowds with a barbecue, Black Voters Matter helped to get students registered.

Organizers said they hope Dr. King's message inspires more young people to hit the polls.

"It was students who led a good amount of the civil rights movement, that it was young people who got involved, that as they become adults and they're now 18, they have a right to participate in civic engagement," said Wanda Mosley, Senior State Coordinator for Black Voters Matter. "Voting is a wonderful way to exercise your voice and power."

Student organizations will continue to hold voter registration events around Valdosta over the next few months.

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact ACTION, VSU Sociology and Anthropology.

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