Editor, Recently, I attended the march on Washington to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech.
At first, I saw this as a chance to visit our nation’s capital, hang out with a few friends who live in the area and buy a T-shirt or coffee mug that reads “I was there,” but it turned into much more. The 500,000 or so people who attended were there to bring attention to the issues that still plague this great nation. Issues like jobs, homelessness, racial profiling, voting rights, stand-your-ground laws and blatant racism were the focus of this march, and the thousands of signs held by participants of all races served to remind us just how far we still have to go to become a shining example of the greatest nation on Earth.
I also was reminded that these same issues plague us right here in Liberty County. Racial profiling in particular is a major issue nationally, making it ridiculous for anyone here to think that we are exempt in this community.
The Rev. Al Sharpton was the march’s keynote speaker, and he mentioned the foolish people who continue to scream that it’s time to take back our nation. He asked, “Take it back from whom?”
Ninety-one-year-old civil-rights leader the Rev. Joseph Lowery also spoke, and he left us with this charge when he said, “We came here to commemorate, now let’s go back to our communities and agitate!”
As an elected official, I have a charge to keep that I don’t take lightly. I’m also a parent and a taxpayer, and the charges and responsibilities that come with those positions must be paramount in our lives if we are to make a difference here in Liberty County.
Closer to home, I had the pleasure to ride along with, stand with, march with and talk with former Riceboro City Councilman Henry Relaford, 92. I’ve known Mr. Relaford for more than 40 years, and his passion for civil rights is unwavering. I used to think being afraid was a generational thing that was reserved for those who experienced Jim Crow laws personally or for those who are naturally timid or afraid. Mr. Relaford is not affected by fear, and if you don’t believe me, just ask him.
At 92, Uncle Henry has more energy and stamina than most people half his age. I stood the entire time I was with him because I refused to let him outdo me. We had a great time and, like this commemorative march, my conversations and time spent with Mr. Relaford (our national treasure), reminded me that the struggle continues.
— Gary Gilliard
Liberty County Commissioner