“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” - Martin Luther King Jr.
The people of Hammond demonstrated this morning that they will not stay silent in the current tumultuous political landscape, but will raise their voices to praise Martin Luther King Jr. and his teachings.
Hammond was quiet as people gathered for the 33rd Annual Candlelight March and Celebration for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. People gathered and talked like old friends, some holding portraits of King Jr, others bearing Black Lives Matters signs. The crowd walked together in the cold morning, talking, laughing. Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. was among the marchers.
The crowd walked from Hammond City Hall to the Hammond Civic Center, where they were met with applause. They kicked off a celebration that would lift the spirits of everyone involved and let Indiana know that Hammond stands on the right side of history. The Civic Center came to life as Principal Conja Wright-Halliburton stepped up to the mic. She began with a powerful reading of the lyrics to “Make Me Better Lord.” Cheers erupted when she finished, and she addressed the crowd once more.
“Good morning Hammond! Looking good,” she said. She looked upon the crowd and saw many people who were instrumental to her success. “They helped mold me,” she said, about the people and teachers in Hammond working together to build her up. “Dr. King gave us his best, and wanted us to do better, Principal Wright-Halliburton said. “We’ve come so far because he dreamed with a purpose. We’re all here right now because someone in our lives dreamed with a purpose.”
Mayor Thomas M. McDermott Jr. took the stage and was excited to see the turnout. “Thank you for the high energy,” he said. “Thank you to everyone who put together this event” and included Owana Miller, the Hammond community development director, the Hammond Fire Department for leading the march, and the Hammond Civil Defense for helping block traffic to get the marchers to their destination safely. He thanked each politician and Hammond community leader who attended the event.
“This is an event that celebrates our diversity in Hammond. We're here to celebrate a man who was not afraid to stand up for what he believed in, was not afraid of threats, was idealistic and preached non-violence. He lead the way for an entire generation of people,” he said. “I want anyone to be able to buy a home, be a good neighbor, and live in a safe city, that’s what Hammond is about. I’m glad my kids grew up within the diversity in Hammond.”
Congressman Peter Visclosky attended and said a few words. Councilman Anthony Higgs, and Dr. Walter Watkins, Hammond School Superintendent also spoke.
Hammond Academy for the Performing Arts piano student Alyssa Garcia played a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace, Asia’s Dance Factory dancers performed, the Hammond Community Choir sang, The Purdue University Black the Student Union came and read original poetry, and the Lew Wallace Elementary Choir sang as well. Kianna Horton performed the Star Spangled Banner.
“This was one of the biggest crowds we’ve had,” said Miller. “This annual event is awesome. More and more people come out every year, and Hammond cherishes this day because it was set aside to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.”
The celebration ended with a prayer, and everyone left feeling a little more positive and hopeful than they were before.