ELKHART — The wind and frigid cold didn’t deter Shawndale Gwinn.
Bundled up against the cold, the Concord High School senior and eight others carried out a short, 10-minute march in downtown Elkhart on Monday, honoring Martin Luther King Jr., the slain civil rights leader.
“They walked mile upon mile upon mile just for everyone to be equal,” Shawndale said, alluding to the freedom marchers of the civil rights movement. “This is the least I can do.”
Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and African-Americans and others here marked the day with the march, sponsored by the Elkhart chapter of the Indiana Black Expo, and song and speeches later at Canaan Baptist Church. Participants offered varied messages, hopeful, on the one hand, but also mindful that the civil rights struggle isn’t over.
Gwinn, 18, has taken part in about 10 Martin Luther King Jr. Day marches and on Monday — when temperatures hovered around 16 degrees — he carried a large poster with the likeness of King. It’s not all about African-Americans, though, he emphasized.
“It’s more of equal rights for everybody,” he said.
Terry Allen of Elkhart, jogging with the group, sounded a similar message. “(It’s about) making sure everybody has the right to grow and be themselves,” he said.
‘VERY GOOD ROLE MODEL’
After the march, from the Elkhart Civic Plaza to St. James AME Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, the local black expo activities continued at Canaan Baptist Church in south Elkhart. Among the 120 or so people on hand was Janell Bloch, a nurse, and her daughter, Makayla, an Elkhart Central High School sophomore.
“The struggle definitely continues. We still have racism,” said Janell Bloch. But youth of today have much more opportunity and hope of achieving “whatever they want.”
Tom Sledge of Elkhart, with a tattoo of King on his abdomen, contrasted the peaceful protest espoused by King with the violence prevalent in many cities.
“Every day, people getting killed and shot and doing stupid stuff,” Sledge said. “I think (King’s) a very good role model.”
Similarly, Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore, one of the featured speakers, contrasted the frequent violence in U.S. society, like last month’s Newtown, Conn., school killings, with King’s call for nonviolent protest.
“Are we doing our part to make us a kinder, gentler people?” Moore wondered. He continued: “Let us not think of his words just on this day.”
Takita Earl, a paraprofessional at Roosevelt Elementary School, offered the keynote address, making a call for increased efforts to help one another, to be selfless instead of selfish.