By BRITTINY LENE’
Hundreds of people from Gannon University and the Erie community gathered in Perry Square and marched to Erie’s Martin Luther King Center to show their support and pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. for his sacrifices on Monday.
It was a chilly morning; however, the sun was shining and not a drop of rain – or snow – had fallen during the event.
Around noon the police began to block off several roads to create the path that led to the Martin Luther King Center (or MLK Center). Much of the crowd took this as a sign; therefore, they began to gather around the stage at Perry Square.
What started as small clusters of four or five friends and family members rapidly grew into a large crowd of over 300 people.
A few moments later, a recording of King giving his “I Have a Dream Speech” broadcast through a small radio on the stage. After it was finished playing several speakers rose and spoke of the past – as well as the future.
Tiffany Spain and her two daughters were among the many families that attended the event.
“I got to walk for Black History Month when I was their age,”Spain said. “We actually got to go and march on the grounds they marched on, down south in Alabama. We got to go to the church Martin Luther attended, we went to the museum in Atlanta, and we went to the church where the four little girls were bombed.”
Spain’s goal is to have her kids grow up knowing their heritage and learn what it was like marching. Spain said she is hoping that they take away as much from their march as she had from her own.
“The best part about this event is the diversity – everybody comes out,” Spain said. “Whites, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims — everybody comes together as one.”
People of all ages, genders, religions, and most of all races attended this event. It did not take long for most of these different strangers to begin mingling and making new friends.
The park was full of children laughing and playing while the adults were making small talk. Under this chatter there was a dull droning, which came from a large white garbage truck.
The truck was parked on North Park Row – the side street beside Perry Square and had several of the marchers confused by the unique placement of the behemoth “eyesore.”
According to the National Archive’s website, in 1968 King helped to form a city-wide boycott and march in Memphis after hearing about the mistreatment of several sanitation workers.
The “eyesore” was merely a symbol for one of the many things King fought to change during his life.
Rose Surma, a representative for TransFamily of Northwest Pennsylvania, attended the march for the first time with her 14-year-old son.
“I think that as I have gotten older I have just gotten more aware of the need to participate in community events,” Surma said. “I want to grow as a person and I think meeting new people and coming together to learn and grow as a community is important.”
She brought her son so that she could teach him that it is important to get involved and to stand up and give a voice to those who need it, Surma said.
Right before the march had begun, several volunteers were passing out free coffee and cinnamon buns to the crowd.
A little boy approached a man who was passing out the cinnamon buns.
“Like one? Here you go buddy,” the man said as he gave the small boy the pastry.
The boy’s face lit up and a smile began to grow.
This act demonstrated what King fought for and what the march had stood for: unity and equality.