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Southfield’s MLK taskforce encourages action at 35th annual peace walk, celebration

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published January 21, 2020

 Rosemerry Allen sings “Better Days” Jan. 20 at Hope United Methodist Church prior to the Martin Luther King Jr. Task Force’s 35th annual peace walk and celebration.

Rosemerry Allen sings “Better Days” Jan. 20 at Hope United Methodist Church prior to the Martin Luther King Jr. Task Force’s 35th annual peace walk and celebration.

Photo by Sean Work

 An estimated 1,000-person crowd embarks on the peace walk on a frigid morning.

An estimated 1,000-person crowd embarks on the peace walk on a frigid morning.

Photo by Sean Work

 Douglass Doggett wears a commemorative pin Jan. 20 as he waits to start the walk from the church to the Southfield Pavilion.

Douglass Doggett wears a commemorative pin Jan. 20 as he waits to start the walk from the church to the Southfield Pavilion.

Photo by Sean Work

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SOUTHFIELD — The Southfield Pavilion overflowed with song and celebration Jan. 20, as community members gathered for the 35th year in a row to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The day began at 9 a.m. at Hope United Methodist Church on Northwestern Highway, where a crowd gathered for prayer before embarking on the mile-long journey to the Southfield Pavilion for a ceremony filled with speeches and performances.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence attended the ceremony.

A photo of King overlooked the crowd as representatives from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Task Force, a handful of city officials and residents from the surrounding communities gathered for the event.

The Southfield police and fire departments, along with members of the Buffalo Soldiers, presented the colors of the American flag. David Gloff sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Pastor Zerrick Lake led the group in prayer.

Magistrate Robin Dillard Russaw, of the 46th District Court, acted as the master of ceremonies.

“This year’s theme, community in action, calls for us to volunteer to be dedicated leaders and to serve as role models to the next generation,” Dillard Russaw said.

MLK Task Force President Roger Goolsby welcomed the crowd to the celebration and thanked the founding members of the organization.

“We are here to honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.,” Goolsby said. “They made a commitment 35 years ago that this community will always celebrate the holiday in honor of MLK. So to the founders, we thank you.”

Taskforce Founder Barbara Talley called for a moment of silence for U.S. Rep. John Conyers, who died late last year. Conyers was the longest serving African-American in Congress, and he introduced the legislation for a commemorative holiday four days after King was shot.

Southfield Mayor Ken Siver said that the event is the state’s largest and oldest peace walk in honor of King.

“As a charter member of this taskforce, back in 1986, we planned this walk to demonstrate our support for and to further Dr. King’s dream of peace, nonviolence and brotherhood,” Siver said.

Siver encouraged residents to vote in November and to participate in the 2020 census.

“Please vote for change. Please cast votes against hate and bigotry,” he said.

Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, the president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, delivered the keynote address.

Anthony asked the crowd to reflect on the purpose of the holiday.

“I do want to be crystal clear that we pause … and reflect on where we are as a nation. It seems that today, that the most prevalent fear  — even though we’re in the 21st century — is still the problem of the color line. It’s class and economics,” he said. “We now have gathered here in the year 2020 in this Southfield Pavilion to remember the King. Not just remember what he lived for, but what he died for.”

Anthony urged people to celebrate King’s birthday with action instead of just observance.

“Martin Luther King was not just a dreamer. He was a doer. He was a worker,” Anthony said. “We can’t treat this day like Christmas — it comes once a year, so we celebrate it on the day. … That’s not how you celebrate Dr. King. You celebrate Dr. King by doing the work that Dr. King did.”

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