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‘We all have to be together:’ Daytonians brave cold to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. holiday

The following article by Eileen McClory appeared in the Dayton Daily News on January 15, 2024.

About 200 people gathered in single-digit temperatures Monday on Dayton’s West Side to march to Sinclair Community College in memory of Martin Luther King Jr.

Walking along West Third Street, the participants in the march sang songs like, “This Little Light of Mine” and “Happy Birthday” to King. MLK Day marks King’s birthday each year, and this year, the holiday fell on his actual birthday.

The march was one of several events in the Dayton region where people braved the low temperatures to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

Dayton’s MLK Day organizer Anthony Whitmore thanked the participants at the end of the route and said King used to remind people that everything was a gift from God. “Make this city what it should be,” he said. “Because you are the determiner of what it is.”

The march began at the Charles Drew Health Center, 1323 W. Third St., and ended at Sinclair Community College. Dion Greene, a survivor of the 2019 Oregon shooting, released a white turtledove on the downtown side of the Third Street bridge.

Angel Martin, president of the Montgomery County chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a traditionally Black sorority, said the sorority alumni come out to walk in the march each year to remember King.

“What we’re founded on is social action,” she said. “We’re here to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King and work together with our community.”

Kate Furmanski, part of the Oakwood Inclusion Coalition, said she wanted to be part of something bigger than herself. She said she hopes people can see that many people can still come together and work together, even in harsh weather.

“We can still do hard things together as a community,” she said.

Will Smith, Dayton Public Schools’ board president, said he reflected on his family as he walked in the march. His parents both worked to make Dayton better, he said, especially the West side.

“When I’m out here, I like to just reflect on where I’ve been, where I’ve come from, and then really just talk to people who are out here to let them know that we all have to be together,” Smith said. “I think that’s just going to move the city forward.”

Montgomery County commissioner Deborah A. Lieberman said she has been coming to the march for more than 20 years. She finds it a way to celebrate Dayton.

“It’s always such a heartwarming day to reflect on Dr. King and the work we still have to do,” she said.

Ali Shakhamandarov, a member of the Ahiska Center, which is a community hub for the Ahiska Turk community in Dayton, said the many members of the center were there to support the MLK movement.

Ahiska Turks are an ethnic minority in the country of Georgia with a long history of being displaced and discriminated against.

“The reason we are here today is to support civil rights,” Shakhamandarov said.


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