Although temperatures were well below freezing Sunday afternoon, the crowd of about 150 people gathered outside of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Carlisle appeared friendly and joyful with a shared purpose of honoring the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
It was the beginning of Carlisle’s 29th Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration March. This year’s theme, based on that of the national Martin Luther King Jr. Center, was “Looking forward, we stand united.”
“Let’s keep the spirit of warmth in our hearts,” said Pastor Sylvester Brown, of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Carlisle, before directing the police-assisted crowd across the town square for a program inside the welcomed warmth of the Old Courthouse. The procession was a mix of races, ages and genders, led by a color guard and several banners. Voices joined as one to sing “We Shall Overcome” during the walk.
Brown co-chaired this year’s event with Gale Wenk du Pont, assisted by treasurer Judy Cobb, secretary Jane Muller-Peterson and a committee of more than a dozen church, community and military leaders. The location of each year’s event is rotated among community churches, Wenk du Pont said.
“I hope people take away from this a better understanding of Dr. King’s message of peace, unity and justice,” she said. “We realize we can come together because we have more things in common than not. We need to focus on what brings up together rather than what tears us apart.”
Yolanda Ingram, Dickinson Law assistant dean for student services, served as mistress of ceremonies at the Old Courthouse. Carlisle Mayor Tim Scott declared Jan. 15, King’s Birthday holiday, as a day of service in the borough, urging all citizens to participate. There were also remarks offered by Cumberland County Commissioner Vince DiFilippo, state Rep. Steven Bloom and Carlisle Police Chief Taro Landis, among others.
“I can’t help but to see the irony of this,” Landis stated. “Here I am 50 years later, standing before you as police chief representing the forces that tried to stop Dr. King. God is good, but it’s sheer irony. Dr. King said that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. We have to continue to stand up for what is right.”
Vocalist Martha Thomas, Mayor Scott’s mother, performed “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” with the audience quickly joining in. Keyboardist Jonathan Brown, Sylvester Brown’s son, sang a moving version of “No Longer Slaves.” Jonathan Brown said his song, based on a Bible verse, was “tied into the whole thing of equality.”
“It’s not just about people getting along, it’s also about families,” he said. “We’re all part of one, the human race.”
Following the program at the Old Courthouse, a commemoration service honoring King and his work was held at First Evangelical Lutheran Church. The event featured speaker, Rozella Haydee White, a writer, teacher and preacher who currently serves as the Houston City director for Mission Year, as well as several local religious leaders. Awards and scholarships also were presented to several area youths.