Tuesday, January 16, 2001

Race discussions, march mark King holiday

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

William Eady and Aaron Carr carry a tapestry with Dr. King's image.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        Thousands of people across the Tristate marched and sang, talked of better race relations and reflected Monday on a man whose dream forever changed a nation.

        Hundreds marched from Fountain Square to Music Hall in downtown Cincinnati carrying banners and singing in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

        Blacks and whites filled Music Hall's auditorium into the upper balconies to listen to a message from Ezra E.H. Griffith, a professor at Yale University.

        “Cincinnati needs to hear it more than any city I've ever been in,” said the Rev. George Redmond of Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church, one of the attendees.

        Dr. Griffith said that while today's laws do not allow segregation, African-Americans do not feel a sense of belonging. The speaker urged the group to recognize the distinction between legal and psychological belonging.

        “Interaction needs to occur with regularity,” Dr. Griffith said. “And both blacks and whites have to learn from it.”

        Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken reflected on the direction in which the city needs to turn.

        “As we march with our feet and sing with our voices, let's use our hands,” he said. “Not to pat ourselves on the back but to roll up our sleeves.

        “This city, this community, has a long way to go.”

        Earlier in the day, the Rev. Damon Lynch III, pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church in Over-the-Rhine, received the Dreamkeeper 2001 Award at the Arts Consortium's 11th annual King Day Breakfast at the Hyatt Regency downtown.

        The award is given to a person or organization that keeps Dr. King's dream of peace, justice and equality for all people alive in Greater Cincinnati.

        The Rev. Mr. Lynch is president of Cincinnati Black United Front, which boycotted downtown businesses over the holidays in protest of Roger Owensby Jr.'s death in police custody and alleged racial profiling by police.

        The Rev. Mr. Lynch thanked his family for their encouragement, especially his father, the Rev. Damon Lynch Jr., who he said has fielded phone calls and supported him when people ask, “What are you going to do about Damon?”

        He urged Cincinnati to adopt a motto similar to Atlanta's: A City Too Busy to Hate.

        Togo D. West Jr., former secretary of the Veterans Administration and former secretary of the Army, gave the keynote address. Mr. West, son-in-law of the late Mayor Theodore M. Berry, told the crowd of 900 that it was a day to commemorate Dr. King's birth, not a day to remember his tragic death.

        “It's a historical day,” he said. “It is a day to think about our future as a nation and as a city.”

Other events

        In Butler County, the Rev. Kevin Parks, pastor of Bethel AME Church in Middletown, delivered a speech to about 200 people during the Middletown NAACP chapter's breakfast.

        The Rev. Mr. Parks used analogies to compare the work ethic of ants — organization, preparation, determination and cooperation — with the principles Dr. King used during the civil rights movement.

        “When you have been in the struggle as long as I have, sometimes you get a bit weary,” said Louie Cox, president of the Middletown branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

        “A moving speech like the Rev. Parks gave today, it renews your strength,” Mr. Cox said.

        During an evening program at the Booker T. Washington Community Center in Hamilton, the Martin Luther King Committee gave Distinguished Service Awards to the Rev. Demery Higgins, associate minister at Bethel Baptist Church; Patricia Ellis, social studies teacher at Hamilton High School; Jack Rhodes, executive director of Miami University-Hamilton; and Raymond Terrell, professor of educational leadership at Miami University in Oxford.

Kentucky programs
               There was a noon-to-nightfall program at the Northern Kentucky Community Center in Covington.

        The 6-year-old event included videos of some of Dr. King's early nonviolent protests, speeches by local civil rights activists, a coloring contest and puppet show, gospel songs performed by children and adults, samples of African-American cuisine and a candlelight march.

        “We put this program together so that it's not just another day off school or work,” said Rollins Davis, the center's executive director. “We want to educate people on Dr. King's life, work and mission.”

        Mr. Davis, 38, said such events are especially important to convey Dr. King's message to children who have not experienced the overt discrimination that past generations did.

        Children who gathered at the community center Monday for a coloring contest also offered their thoughts on Dr. King.

        Crystal Cullum, 11, a First District sixth-grader, said it best.

        “Martin Luther King proved that color doesn't make a difference,” she said. “Friendship is colorless.”

        Cindy Kranz, Cindy Schroeder and Earnest Winston contributed to this report.


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