“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
A group of approximately 150 people, including a bus full of Oberlin residents, paid homage Monday to those words, spoken by the late civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.
Those walking held signs high that spoke about racial injustice, corporate greed, economic inequality, and protection of women’s rights.
They marched from Ely Square to Elyria High School on the holiday that bears King’s name. At the high school, they joined an even larger crowd for a program featuring addresses from Elyria mayor Holly Brinda and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, song and theater dedications from student groups, and awards for acts of kindness or generosity.
A bus trip to the annual walk was organized by the Oberlin Underground Railroad Society, Oberlin NAACP, and Oberlin African American Genealogical Society.
“My wife and two of our grandkids are with us here today,” said Steve Hammond, a pastor at Peace Community Church in Oberlin. “I think this is a very key time in the life of our country. Many people are concerned with what the future holds. We have a gathering in Oberlin every year but we decided that we needed to come over here and join something else going on in the county. It’s important to express solidarity and people being here for each other.”
His nine-year-old granddaughter, Sofia Ramirez, marched alongside him with a sign reading, “Fund human need, not corporate greed.”
“I like how Martin Luther King helped civil rights and brought people together who are many different colors. It seems like coming together is even more important right now,” she said.
Tracie Haynes of the Oberlin Underground Railroad Society said she was proud of what her community brought to the table.
“We’ve come together as a community and shown up for this event,” she said. “It says a lot about trying to bring people together in Oberlin to participate in a larger context for the things this day stands for. I’m especially pleased with the turnout. These times are calling for us to do what we can to bring people together. We need to make our community a better place and create paths for advancement instead of going backwards.”
Janet Garrett, a former Democratic U.S. House candidate and retired school teacher, led the group with signs spelling out O-B-E-R-L-I-N after exiting the bus. She is also leading a trip to Washington, D.C., this Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington.
“We desperately need people to stand up at this point in history,” she said. “I said to my daughter recently that this is what the 60s felt like — people just thronging together for what they believe in.”
David Ashenhurst, a former Oberlin councilman who is involved with local civic groups, said the holiday gives people a chance to not only remember King, but to find the best ways to address current issues.
“I was 14 when Martin Luther King was killed and I very much remember it,” he said. “I don’t think we knew then how much we were going to miss him and remember him. Everything that people decide to do in recognizing this day is a good thing. I was at the Republican National Convention in July, and the heartbreaking thing was that in the midst of all those protests you got the impression that the people inside the hall didn’t think anything of it. Here, these people are heard. It’s a somewhat melancholy meditation on what needs to be done going forward.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Oberlin News-Tribune Oberlin residents let everyone know where they came from at Elyria’s annual Martin Luther King Day commemorative walk.