PICKENS — Black and white, young and old, the Upstate community turned out in unity Monday to honor and celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Pickens County Courthouse.
Joyful songs rang through the chilly air and children held signs commemorating the late civil rights leader as the crowd listened to the words by guest speaker the Rev. Alphonso Houston of the New Foundation Baptist Church in Easley.
Pickens Police Chief Travis Riggs and Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark both spoke at the event, stressing the importance of maintaining good race relations between their departments and the African American community.
“Dr. King was aware of the roadblocks he’d face and he faced them head on,” Riggs said. “Dr. King saw that he could accomplish great things through peaceful means and non-violence. Dr. King stated that he wanted to see a country where children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Riggs relayed a story he herd last week about a little girl and her mother who were in a restaurant. The little girl was looking around the diner and told her mother in a loud, excited voice, “Look at those black people, look at those white people! They’re eating together!”
Riggs said the mother shushed the little girl and said “Some people might take offense to what you said.” The little girl, with a confused look on her face, said “But Mama, Dr. King’s dream came true!”
“You see, she had been learning last week in school about Martin Luther King Day and she saw, with her own eyes, one of his dreams coming together,” Riggs said. “Let’s not be quick to judge, but look at the world through the innocent eyes of a child.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law by President Reagan in 1983 but wasn’t observed until 1986. Only two other people in the United States have federal holidays honoring them: Christopher Columbus and George Washington.
Despite MLK’s popularity today, the holiday wasn’t celebrated in all 50 states until the year 2000, when South Carolina finally formally recognized the holiday.
“I can assure you today that the Pickens Police Department will not judge by color. There is no room for prejudice,” said Riggs. “The Pickens Police Department sees no colors, only the actions of man. No one can walk this walk alone, we must all work together. We need to unite so the rest of the country can see that we in Pickens are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of the Lord.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.