WELLSVILLE - On the same day the nation's first black president began his second term, East Liverpool and Wellsville residents - black and white - came together to celebrate the legacy of slain civil rights leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Observances, held at Second Baptist Church in East Liverpool and Wellsville Municipal Building, were filled with paeans to King, civil rights songs, children's poems and personal reminiscences.
Participants braved temperatures in the 20s and a steady snow to mark King Day with a procession from First Baptist Church to Wellsville Municipal Building. The latter was standing-room-only for an annual event sponsored by the NAACP's East Liverpool-Wellsville chapter.
Makesha West (second from left), president of the East Liverpool-Wellsville NAACP, unfurls a banner Monday prior to the march to Wellsville Municipal Building in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Helping her are (from left) her son, Ishmeil Heard, Frances Youngblood and Janea Jarvis, all of Wellsville. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
"His dream was for every human being on the planet to be treated equally," said Wellsville police Chief Joe Scarabino, sitting in for the ailing Mayor Susan Haugh. "That dream is alive and kicking in Wellsville, USA."
Makesha West, president of the local NAACP chapter, said it's easy for today's beneficiaries of King's work to forget the "hardships, difficulties and struggles" of the early civil rights leaders.
"Martin Luther King believed to the point of putting his life on the line. Those who sat at the counters for equal rights believed to the point of putting their life on the line," she said. "We have overcome so many things, but that doesn't mean there aren't more things to overcome."
Janea Jarvis, of Wellsville, said this was her first King march - but it won't be her last. "I plan on coming back," she said. "I'm actually surprised there weren't more people here."
Marchers, bundled up in coats, hats and scarves, walked down Center, 14th and Main streets in Wellsville singing "We Shall Overcome."
Among the children participating in the Wellsville ceremony was Indiah Pullie, 11, of East Liverpool, who read a poem she wrote assigning a meaning to every letter in King's name.
"'D' stands for the doctor he became," she said to a rapt audience. 'R' stands for not having revenge. 'M' stands for master of all minds. 'A' stands for helping the poorest of all Americans. 'R' stands for the reverend he became. 'T' stands for the time he gave. 'I' stands for the famous 'I Have a Dream' speech. 'N' stands for the Nobel Peace Prize he won."
She continued with each letter in "Luther" and "King," then took her seat to enthusiastic applause.
The Rev. Earnest Peachey, pastor of Second Baptist Church, gave the invocation, while the Rev. Aaron Smith, of Impact Ministries and representing the Wellsville Ministerial Association, gave the benediction.
"Ignite the fire inside us that was inside (King)," Smith prayed.
At a "Remembering the Dream" breakfast event at Second Baptist earlier in the day, East End resident Alonzo Spencer reminisced about being in Washington, D.C., on the day King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963. It was so hot that day, some people passed out, he said.
"I can assure you that most of the people who were there were not aware that they were making history," Spencer said.
"My most vivid memory," Spencer said, "was the camaraderie that was rampant throughout the crowd. I don't ever remember any other group of people that seemed to get along as all those thousands of people that day."
At the breakfast event, sponsored by the Tri-State Prayer & Ministry Alliance, Peachey invited participants to share what King means to them.
The Rev. Mike Ross, pastor of Hope Christian Fellowship in Lisbon, described King as a "man of faith, a man of Christ. ... He was following, in my opinion, the same path that Jesus walked - a path that ultimately led to the cross."
The Rev. Dale Sutton, pastor of First United Methodist Church in East Liverpool, described King as "the Isaiah of our time - he shone the light in the darkness."
If King were alive today, Peachey said, "I think he would still be guiding people like me to remain focused on the dream. ... We're not done yet. We still have work to do."