Mass Incarceration

Decatur honors Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy with 37th annual Freedom March


Bishop Mark Bond of Bible Approach Pentecostal Church leads a tune through the thirty seventh annual Freedom March on the Decatur Civic Heart on Monday. The march was held to honor the legacy of The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

DECATUR — Angela Grant had a purpose to march. 

Grant, who’s a triplet, misplaced her sister on the finish of December. Her sister’s reminiscence is a part of what moved her to march in honor of the late Martin Luther King Jr. and “to maintain on letting the dream reside.” 

“United we stand, divided we fall,” mentioned Grant, of Decatur. “And I consider that God desires us to be united as one as a result of we’re one nation.”

Grant was one among dozens of residents who turned out to march from Mueller Park to the Decatur Civic Heart, regardless of the rain, alongside Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on Monday morning. The march was a part of the town’s thirty seventh annual Freedom March, the primary full program for the reason that begin of the COVID pandemic.


Mount Zion Excessive College historical past instructor Richard Hansen highlights the significance of frank dialogue about race and Black historical past in the USA as a part of his keynote deal with on the Freedom March occasion.

For this 12 months’s program organizers centered on the significance of training younger folks concerning the previous to enhance the longer term, in response to officers with the town’s Human Relations Fee. 

Individuals are additionally studying…

“We have to not overlook our previous and hold the legacy of Dr. King alive, and keep in mind (that) this isn’t only a break day from faculty or work,” mentioned Penny Rogers, human assets supervisor for the town of Decatur. “You realize, we have to keep in mind the true which means of at the moment.”

The ages of the marchers spanned a long time and included a big group of scholars from the Boys & Ladies Membership of Decatur. A few of these college students mentioned they have been impressed by King’s legacy. 


The thirty seventh annual Freedom March advances down Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Decatur on Monday.

“He was the rationale why we received freedom at the moment,” mentioned Jakaila Currie, 13, a scholar at Hope Academy in Decatur. 

“He was our fighter and he was our believer,” added Phaith Cook dinner, 8, additionally a Hope Academy scholar.

As soon as on the Civic Heart, marchers heard from Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe and featured speaker Richard Hansen, a longtime historical past instructor at Mount Zion Excessive College whose African-American Experience students have been creating exhibits for Decatur’s African-American Cultural and Family tree Society and Museum for a few years.

Hansen spoke about his class, about King and about historic racial tensions between Decatur and Mount  Zion relationship again to the lynching of Samuel J. Bush in June of 1893.  

“For the longest time, Mount Zion had a popularity as the town that lynched a Black man from Decatur,” Hansen mentioned.  


Corletta Murray, Mark Bond, and Karl Coleman lead the thirty seventh annual Freedom March on the Decatur Civic Heart on Monday.

Hansen’s college students find out about Bush’s lynching and about different important occasions in Black American historical past typically ignored or simplified in lots of historical past curricula. 

Although nearly 60 years after King delivered his well-known “I Have a Dream” speech, Hansen acknowledged his class would possibly nonetheless show controversial in some components of the nation. 


Corletta Murray sings through the thirty seventh annual Freedom March on the Decatur Civic Heart on Monday. “It’s actually essential to show to the youth,” mentioned the educating assistant with Decatur Public Faculties. “We now have to maintain the dream alive.”

He mentioned he’s grateful to have the backing of administration at Mount Zion Excessive College. However in different states, he mentioned, he is likely to be fired for educating a category so centered on race, referencing bans on crucial race principle and different race-related ideas in states like Florida and Arkansas. 

“I’m not going to say that all the things’s rosy within the halls of Mount Zion Excessive College,” Hansen mentioned. 

His African-American historical past course often has about 25 to 30 college students per class, out of roughly 800 college students within the faculty. In an ideal world, all college students would take the elective, he mentioned. 

Nonetheless, Hansen mentioned his present college students give him purpose to consider a greater future lies forward. 

“I don’t know if these issues are going to be solved in my lifetime, and even within the lifetime of most all people in right here,” he instructed the group. “However so long as we now have these sorts of children, it provides me hope.” 


John Baird, of Decatur, arrives with the thirty seventh annual Freedom March for the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on the Decatur Civic Heart on Monday. Baird mentioned he was part of the unique Selma march with Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965.

This 12 months, Hansen’s African-American Expertise college students have been joined by college students at Eisenhower, MacArthur and Taylorville excessive faculties in creating what Hansen mentioned is his largest exhibit but — an exploration into race within the legal justice system he’s calling “Regulation and Order: Mass Incarceration and the New Jim Crow.” 


Corletta Murray sings through the thirty seventh annual Freedom March on the Decatur Civic Heart on Monday. “It’s actually essential to show to the youth,” mentioned the educating assistant with Decatur Public Faculties. “We now have to maintain the dream alive.”

The exhibit might be formally launched on the African-American Cultural and Family tree Society and Museum on Might 8. Actually, all scholar reveals from the final three years, which didn’t have correct unveilings as a result of pandemic, might be launched at the moment. Reveals added since 2020 cowl matters together with the Obama years, Emmett Until, the Black Energy motion, the Tulsa Race Bloodbath and extra. 

As for Martin Luther King Jr., Hansen instructed the Herald & Overview that whereas King didn’t actually ask to be placed on a pedestal, folks can nonetheless discover solace in his phrases.

“His message of inclusivity and non violence is timeless,” Hansen mentioned. “And that’s one thing that it would not matter whether or not he mentioned these phrases in 1963, or now 60 years later in 2023. It nonetheless resonates with folks. He envisioned a world that was higher than what he noticed on the time. And we’re higher than we have been again in 1963. However we now have an extended method to go.” 

Contact Taylor Vidmar at (217) 421-6949. Observe her on Twitter: @taylorvidmar11. 

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