In Pulaski, 55 people walk from Giles County’s courthouse to the Greater Richland Creek Baptist Association building for MLK Day programs. Photo by Clint Confehr

By Clint Confehr

“America wants Blacks to symbolically march to honor the man instead of marching for change,” Nashville’s NAACP branch president said after celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

“We marched together symbolically, but we need to march together for change,” Nashville Branch President Venita Lewis said. “Marching is more about protest and change.” MLK Day “is great education, but is it a great Civil Rights protest for change?”

Monday, hundreds of thousands of people in big cities and small towns demonstrated support for Civil Rights.

Dr. King’s “dream has not come to fruition, so we have to still work to make that come true,” said Benita Kimbrough Cross, first vice president of the Giles County Branch of the NAACP. Members in Pulaski celebrate Dr. King’s birthday because he “strived to end racism” and “wanted liberty and justice for all people,” she said in the Greater Richland Creek Association building.

Dr. King is one of President Joe Biden’s two political heroes, he said Sunday in Atlanta from the Ebenezer Baptist Church pulpit. “Everyone thought democracy was settled. Not for African Americans… democracy, as an institutional structure, was settled. But it’s not… Are we the people who are going to choose love over hate?” Biden said, asking one of “the vital questions of our time.”

“I hope,” Giles County Branch President Joseph Sutton said, “we improve the city, the county and the state with people being and working together, and giving the devil a hard time.”

Fifty five people marched from Giles County’s courthouse to the Richland Creek association building.

Distributing American flags at the courthouse, Pulaski Alderman Randy Massey said MLK Day means unity.

“Living Together in Unity” was the theme of Marshall County’s branch gathering in the Greater First Baptist Church in Lewisburg where City Manager Bam Haislip said, “To live together in unity, it’s obvious… some things have got to change… [T]he winds of change are swirling… within our community. We’ve come a mighty long way… we’ve got a longer way to go. Knowing our Heavenly Father is with us… allows us to press on, pray on, and continue to strive toward making Dr. King’s dream… a reality.” Haislip, a former councilman, is Lewisburg’s first Black city manager.

With 150 people on Columbia’s Public Square, Maury County NAACP President Terry Hannah said the annual gathering is for equal rights and a time to “remember the struggle” by Dr. King and Civil Rights activists. “It’s everyone’s right to vote and have their own opinions.” He plans to grow branch membership and establish branch offices, maybe on East 8th Street, the site of what headlines in 1946 called Columbia’s race riot.

Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder said city police attended “because they are a community department” with officers who “walked hand-in-hand” with residents protesting George Floyd’s death. MLK Day means “equality for all and service to the fellow man; two things that Dr. King stood for. We have a community that believes that.”

Maury County school board member Jamila Brown is a branch vice president. She wants to focus on students and test scores.

Nashville’s branch president said, “We need to remind our children they can be like Dr. King and fight to change policies and laws that will affect their future… It was a nice event, but we did not leave with a course of action. When Dr. King marched, he marched for sanitation workers and against discrimination. We have lost the focus of the real meaning of MLK Day. We just make it a nice program, not just here, but across the country.”

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...