Despite cold and rainy weather, Greene County citizens commemorated Dr. King’s Birthday with a weekend of programs, a march and rallies. The three days of activities starting on Saturday, January 15, 2022 were coordinated by Spiver W. Gordon, President of the Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement, Inc., which has two locations in the county packed with photographs, documents and other memorabilia of the Civil Rights Movement in Greene County and west Alabama.
Saturday’s program, on Dr. King’s actual birthday was held at Sandra Walker’s headquarters on Tuscaloosa Street downtown. After a spirited devotion, Commissioner Lester Brown of District 1spoke about the importance of grassroots peoples’ contributions to the movement. “Ms. Bessie Webb walked me to integrate Eutaw Primary School everyday when I was in second grade. Somebody made a way for me, so we have to make a way for the young people coming after us,” said Brown.
Carol P. Zippert, Chair of the Greene County School Board, said we must select people to public office that have our children at heart. “Hold your public officials accountable; Dr. King joined the sanitation workers in Memphis, in his last days to help them win respect and better working conditions. He was always working with people and communities to advance their needs and goals,” she said.
Spiver Gordon said, “My daddy died without the vote; I went to jail for helping people to vote absentee, what are we doing now to involve young folks in the struggle.” Lorenzo French, Chair of the Democratic Executive Committee reported on candidates qualifying for the May 24 primary.
Sister Marta Tonon of the Guadalupan Multicultural Sisters, who have a mission to aid the poor in Greene County, gave some remarks on her work with people in the area to combat poverty and help people improve their conditions. Gordon presented her with an award for the group’s work.
On Sunday, there was a program at First Baptist Church where Dr. King himself spoke during the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement in Greene County. The program consisted of singing and preaching. Rev. Kendrick Howell, Pastor of Little Zion Baptist Church gave a ringing sermon on the topic, “We all love Dr. King – But we do not support his agenda!”
Howell, who also serves as Assistant Police Chief of Eutaw, said “We have gaming in our county, millions of dollars flow through, but we have no YMCA, with a real gym and swimming pool; we have no technology center to train our children to use computers.”
He continued, “Do not remember Dr. King just one day a year. We must do more to stand with the poor and pursue his agenda for all of us.”
On Monday, the program moved to the William M. Branch Courthouse, for a rally in the courtroom, which has a picture of Dr. King on permanent display above the judge’s seat. Spiver Gordon said, “ I live my life guided by these seven words – peace, freedom, justice, equality, unity, love and hope – which were also a part of Dr. King’s philosophy of life.”
After more singing and personal testimonies from people who participated in the movement, the group walked around the old Courthouse Square, now named for Sheriff Thomas Gilmore, seven times to honor Dr. King and for the biblical significance of God’s people walking around the walls of Jericho, seven times, until they fell.