FLORENCE — Jackie McCoo said it’s important that the younger generations know and understand the importance of the legacy left by Martin Luther King Jr.
That’s why McCoo brought her two granddaughters to the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration Monday at the Florence-Lauderdale Coliseum.
“In order for them to grow, they have to know,” McCoo said.
McCoo then asked the girls — Ashante Beckwith McCoo, 8, and Tamora Brown, 6, — about King.
“He was about love,” Beckwith McCoo said.
“He helped so that we all could go to school together,” added Brown.
McCoo said it’s important for young people to understand the true meaning of King and the day that is set aside to honor him.
Her sentiment was shared by others.
“If you don’t know anything about the past, you can’t figure out the future,” said Ann Roy Moore, former superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, and the guest speaker at Monday’s celebration.
She said King made a difference in the lives of everyone.
“And the young need to know why we celebrate him this day,” Moore said. “They need to understand it’s more than just a day they don’t go to school.”
The Shoals area King Celebration began Monday with the 22nd annual Unity Breakfast at the Shoals Conference Center. The event, hosted by Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, was attended by about 600 people, according to organizers.
Anthony D. Sparks, executive director of the Birmingham YMCA Youth Center, was the featured speaker.
Sparks, a 2006 graduate of the University of North Alabama, said his first thought of King is “sacrifice.”
“He was someone who ended up giving his all,” said Sparks, who in 2005 was selected UNA’s SGA president. “We need to understand what sacrifices he made.”
Sparks said it’s important to understand history and what King stood for. He said King’s message of equality hasn’t changed.
“(King) asked what are you doing for others. We need to ask ourselves that question,” Sparks said.
After the Unity Breakfast, between 100-175 people gathered at the Lauderdale County Courthouse for prayer, Pledge of Allegiance and a march to the coliseum.
“Help us to understand our responsibility to love our neighbors, our country and one another,” the Rev. James Bonner prayed before the march.
Moments later the group, with an escort by Florence police, left south on Court Street before turning east onto Veterans Drive and walking to the coliseum.
About 300 people gathered inside the coliseum for the final phase of the day-long event.
“Dr. King was a person who fought for civil rights for all people,” Moore said, as people began to file into the coliseum. “He was about doing the right thing.”
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.