Nearly 150 community members turned out for a march and brunch to celebrate unity on Saturday.
The event, which was organized by the Roy Bailey African American History Center and Museum, paid homage to the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr., delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech advocating racial harmony.
Community leaders, members and people actively involved with the civil rights movement of the 1960s gathered at Pickett Rucker United Methodist Church to remember and honor King and the civil rights activists who worked alongside him.
“We’re all a part of our history, and especially our young people,” said Mary Harris, president of the Wilson County Black History League and an organizer for the event. “It was a teachable moment for [the young people] and also for some of our adults.”
Lebanon Councilor Fred Burton Sr., who participated in Saturday’s march and brunch, said events like the Celebration of Unity are important to remember Lebanon’s role in the civil rights movement.
“You had a lot of the civil rights people that came to Lebanon,” said Burton. “John Lewis came to Lebanon; Stokely Carmichael, he was in Lebanon also…Lebanon holds a lot of history as far as the civil rights movement is concerned.”
Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead was particularly stuck by the symbolism of including Lebanon’s sanitation workers in the event.
“Remembering that Martin Luther King’s intentions were to just recognize everybody for who they are and what they are able to do and accomplish,” said Craighead. “Everybody having the opportunities to advance themselves in this great country, that was the highlight.”
For Craighead, the event also offered a chance for reflection as he recalled living in Pulaski in 1963 and what it was like for his family.
“I kind of reflected on my father, who was a Methodist minister,” said Craighead. “He was, from the pulpit, saying things that many in the Methodist church felt needed to be addressed…Knowing that we got threats on our family’s lives – it just made me proud of what my father did.”
Craighead and Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto were among the speakers at the event, and Wilson County churches, businesses, families and organizations lent support to the event through donations.
The Olive Garden and The Cheesecake Factory regionally donated food for the brunch; area churches provided vans for use and J.C. Hellum Funeral Home in Lebanon provided a limo for the guest civil rights activists.
Harris said the most remarkable part of the event as a whole was diversity of support.
“That is very important to us, that they chose to come out and support [the event],” said Harris. “I think that’s what made it so incredible – that we had white families with their children telling them about diversity and Dr. King’s legacy and why they were doing it.”