CATSKILL — The annual March For Peace commenced Thursday night as 27 marchers stopped at significant points around the village to remember what Martin Luther King Jr. achieved for civil rights and social justice.
Children and parents marched the streets, starting at the Second Baptist Church at 458 Main St., asking for a similar message — to live in a world where no one is better than anyone else.
“I march for peace and freedom and because we should be treating everyone equally,” Jaheem DiNardo, 9, said.
DiNardo was one of three children who carried the banner that led the marchers around town. Zach Sumpter, 9, carried the banner with DiNardo, and said he marched for peace in the world.
“It’s for making other people happy,” Sumpter said.
Before the march began, Amara Wilson, 16, gave a speech about why the Second Baptist Church is central to King’s movement. The Rev. Joanna Tipple said a blessing to the group.
“Martin Luther King Jr. organized everything from the church,” Wilson said. “When he felt weak, the church was there.”
Wilson added King was a devout Baptist.
“The movement was led by the Lord,” Wilson said.
Next, the marchers stopped at the Greene County Courthouse, where Chris Hogan, 14, gave a speech about the significance of a courthouse to the movement.
“The speech is about remembering the march to Selma and raising awareness,” Hogan said before he spoke, adding a courthouse signifies the fight for equal voting rights.
“This march is about remembering what King has done for the whole country and for the whole world,” Hogan said. “This is what we came to march about and honor.”
Mika Leon, 16, added, “we’re all people” and should be treated as such.
The final stop on the march was the Catskill High School Auditorium, which was packed with 150 people. Music and speeches were the order of the day for a crowd of people who believed in the hopeful message.
Elementary school children lined up in front of the stage, introduced themselves and gave short statements about African-Americans who have played an important role in history. High school students followed, speaking from the podium about important facts in African-American history.
Members of the Catskill Interact Club, including Wilson and Leon, read excerpts from King’s speeches.
“Half of my family is Jamaican and half is African-American,” Wilson said before the event. “I would not be here if it weren’t for Martin Luther King Jr. and all he had done. The world is all different races. He’s made the world what it is today.”
Wilson added no person is better than anyone else, and we all need to come together for the greater good.
The Catskill High School Chorus sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and principal Marielena Hauser gave closing remarks.
A dedication was made to Patricia Lewis, a former reading teacher at the middle school, who died in the 1980s. Lewis was one of the original organizers of the march and a Freedom Rider from King’s era.
The evening finished with the group gathering around the peace pole and singing all seven verses of “We Shall Overcome” in memory of those who gave their all during the Civil Rights movement. Rabbi Zoe Zak of Temple Israel in Catskill accompanied the vocals on the piano.
“This march showcases the community’s peace and how it comes together,” Hogan said. “This community is all about unity.”