STEUBENVILLE - The mood for the day was set when Pastor Norries Hood read the closing words from the 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech to the Monday morning audience at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center.
"We talk about Martin Luther King the civil rights leader, but we must remember and talk about Martin Luther King the preacher. And we cannot forget Franklin Roosevelt, Robert Kennedy and John Kennedy," said Hood.
"If you lived during segregation you know what it meant to see a sign for whites only. Martin Luther King lived in the midst of segregation. But he still had a dream where all people would be equal. Racism didn't stop Dr. King's dream because deep inside of Dr. King he had a dream," continued Hood.
"When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty we are free at last!" Hood quoted from King's speech from his Washington, D.C., march on Aug. 28, 1963.
Michael Jett served as master of ceremonies and declared the day will come when the election of an African-American president will be normal.
"And electing an African-American woman to Steubenville City Council won't be unusual," said Jett.
"I visited the motel in Memphis this summer where Dr. King was shot in 1968, and I felt a tremendous loss. This man had lived and died for civil rights. It makes me wonder what we are willing to die for," added Jett.
More than 100 people walked under sunny skies from the MLK Recreation Center to Steubenville High School to hear four students participate in the oratorical contest, saw the presentation of awards to the first- and second- place essay winners and dance presentations by Ca'la Henderson.
The marchers were escorted by the Steubenville Police and Fire departments.
First-place essay winners included Jordan Miller, Myles Hickman, Luke Zorne, Jessica Walkosky and Joshua Fordham. Those placing second were Madison Hickey, Charles Smith, Mia Pierro, Jacob Swinsinski and Jordan Quinn.
Libby Saccoccia, a second-grader at Wells Academy, won the second-annual oratorical contest. Also participating in the oratorical contest regarding peace and justice were Destiny Clark, Joshua Fordham and Destiny Wade.
The Martin Luther King Choir Memorial Mass Choir, under the direction of Delores Wiggins, performed "God Bless America."
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)