Jan. 18—A couple hundred people braved subfreezing temperatures and slick roads on Monday to walk from West Dayton to Sinclair Community College's downtown campus as part of the long-running MLK Memorial March.
"Some people look at this as a day off — this is our day on," said Chaz Amos, 19, the founder and director of the I Love West Dayton initiative. "We are here to celebrate the great life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King."
Community members of all colors, backgrounds and ages walked more than a mile in the snow and slush during the annual event that dates back decades and that is meant to honor the contributions of Dr. King, who was assassinated nearly 54 years ago.
Bill Meers, 79, of Kettering, said he has attended the MLK Memorial March many times, and it is an emotionally powerful and uplifting event that is a meaningful way to be part of the community and connect with others.
"If you say you believe in something, you've got to do it, to be it," he said. "There's still a lot of work to do, but there's so many good people."
Meers in 1964 was one of about 10,000 people who joined Dr. King to march on the Kentucky state capitol in support of a bill to remove racial barriers in public accommodations.
Meers carried a sign that says he still walks with Dr. King today.
Some demonstrators said some of the civil rights Dr. King fought so tirelessly to champion are under attack.
"There are states across the nation that are doing everything they can to minimize your opportunity to vote," said Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims Jr., who spoke after the march and also took part in a subsequent rally at Courthouse Square focused on protecting voting rights.
Rylee Davis, an 11-year-old Miamisburg resident, spoke to the crowd and urged young people to get involved in social justice issues.
"While some people say 'children are our future,' we know that our time is now," she said. "There is no need to wait ... We will be seen now, our voices will be heard now and our impact will make a change now."
Davis, who hosts "The Rylee Show" on social media, uses her voice and platform to promote change and amplify social issues, such as the importance of voting, getting the vaccine and filling out the Census, said her mother, Angela Davis.
The MLK Memorial March was cancelled last year due to COVID-19 concerns, and the year before demonstrators had to take an alternate route to get from West Dayton to downtown due to the closure of the Third Street Bridge.
The bridge, which recently reopened, honors Dr. King with a quote and image associated with his involvement in the march on Washington.
The MLK Memorial March often happens on very cold days in January, but frigid weather is nothing compared to what people have had to go through during the civil rights struggle, said Anthony Whitmore, president of MLK Dayton Inc., which organizes the march.
"Do you understand what our people went through to give us a chance to march?" Whitmore said. "They went through dogs, they went through water, they went through hatred for you and I to be here today."