On the coldest day anyone can remember for this annual event, organizers of today’s MLK Peace March were pleasantly surprised that nearly 150 people still turned out to walk the seven blocks from the William Hicks Anderson Community Center up 4th Street to a nearby church on Wilmington’s Westside, where the celebration continued with food and entertainment.
“We were really impressed with all of the people who committed to show up and came out, because it was really, really cold,” said Tierra Spencer, the Public Allies staffer who spearheaded the planning for the 7th annual event. The temperture at the start of the walk was a brisk 17 degrees.
A drum line, drill team, and dancers from the YMCA on Walnut Street led the way, helping to keep the marchers — including Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki, County Executive Matt Meyer, State Sen Tizzy Lockman, and Councilman Bud Freel — happy and perhaps a little distracted from the elements.
This year 302GunsDown joined West Side Grows as hosts of the event. For the first time, organizers partnered with the United Way and the Delaware Nature Society. Two dozen volunteers from the Nature Society walked the route prior to the march to make sure the path looked great when the marchers took off at 2 pm.
“They wanted to serve on this special day,” said Sarah Lester, of West Side Grows. “They collected trash, identified some spots of graffiti and generally cleared out the route before we marched.”
This was James Spadola’s first time walking in the MLK Peace March. His said the political acrimony taking place in Washington has encouraged a greater sense of civic engagement. “MLK is someone who is unversally respected in this country. And that’s something we’ve totally lost. So it’s nice to come together — people from all walks of life, all political affiliations — and celebrate one man who did such great things for America.”
At the gathering inside the Be Ready Jesus Is Coming Church, weary walkers were treated to a community meal courtesy of several restaurants along the 4th Street corrodor and some terrific entrtainment, with musician Jea Street serving as emcee.
Spencer and Lester established a theme this year — Still Dreaming — and encouraged the visual and performing artists to share their gifts with that theme in mind. “There’s been some real accomplishments since Dr. Martin Luther King began paving the way to a better future for us all,” said Spencer. “So we wanted to shed a light on the work that has been done but also have a real discussion about the work that still needs to be done. That’s why we’re still dreaming,” she said.
Some photos contributed by Erin Goldner