ALTON — The Riverbend Ministerial Alliance sponsored a Martin Luther King Unity March on Monday in celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King as well as to serve as a reminder of the importance of unity.
More than 100 men, women and children arrived at Deliverance Temple in Alton and escaped from the cold long enough for local speakers such as Peter Hough, Jason Harrison and Alderwoman Alice Martin to spread words of welcome and unity. Residents created signs of hope, faith and love as well as reminders of the dream King spoke of throughout the 1960s.
“This is such a wonderful opportunity for people to come together,” Martin said. “The 4th Ward is a very diverse ward within the city and I’m very pleased to see so many residents here, especially with how cold it is today. Everyone in our community is reaching out to each other. I’m very impressed with the Alton Police Department; they are doing an excellent job.”
The crowd carried their signs outdoors and marched together through the streets of Alton singing songs such as “Amazing Grace,” “We Shall Overcome” and “Keep Your Eyes On The Prize.” The crowd shared chants such as “How Long?” from King’s speech “Our God Is Marching On” from the end of the Selma march.
“It is time that we as a community come together,” Cornerstone Church Pastor Jim Kiel said. “It’s time for us to set the example. The black and white people in our region can show the rest of the world how unity can be achieved. It’s up to us to make the decision to come together. Only we as people can do it.”
Local leaders say great strides have been made within the Alton Police Department to not only build a bridge between black and white, but also between residents and police officers.
“When some departments are approaching crowds with night sticks and SWAT gear, our Alton officers are reaching out with hot chocolate and glow sticks,” Alton Mayor Brant Walker said. “Why show aggression first when it’s not called for? Our officers are earning respect through community service, not forcing it with their hand. That’s how bridges are being built, not burned.”
Deliverance Temple, Cornerstone Church and Church of God in Christ held a Unity Crusade in August to encourage Christians to show unity through diversity. The crusade is planned to be an annual event.