Aiken County NAACP travels to Columbia for King Day at the Dome
COLUMBIA - It was below freezing with the wind chill, but that did not keep hundreds of freedom fighters and onlookers from converging on the South Carolina State Capitol for King Day at the Dome on Monday.
The goal of the initial march and rally in 2000 was to protest the flying of the Confederate flag on the grounds of the State Capitol. This year marks the fourth year since the Confederate flag was removed, but still there are inequalities to protest.
The theme of this year’s march was “Education First: Illuminating the Path to Change.” Many of the speakers commented on how South Carolina’s mandated policy of a “minimally adequate education” was disappointing.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, exclaimed that because we are dissatisfied that we all should, “recommit ourselves to be agents of change.” Booker talked about everyone having “courageous empathy,” seeing what needs to be done and then doing the work to fix it.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, urged the crowd to call out racist individuals and racist policies that are detrimental to the community. He highlighted the damaging effects of institutional racism in health care, education and criminal justice on communities of color specifically.
The Aiken County Branch of the NAACP, winner of the L.A. Blackmon Award for the best branch in South Carolina, chartered a bus and brought approximately 50 members and supporters from Aiken County to Columbia for the march and rally.
Eugene White, the president of the Aiken County Branch, said, “It is amazing how marching for civil rights transcends generations. It’s wonderful to see the younger marchers interacting with the more seasoned marchers exchanging stories and ideas. It demonstrates the importance of direct action and need to march until the fight is won.”
The trip was also a treat for the Aiken NAACP Youth Council. Robert Morris, the president, said, “My favorite part about the march was everyone chanting as we walked to the Capitol building.”
Jahleel Johnson, the Youth Council secretary and president of the Aiken High Young Democrats, was able to meet with Booker. He said, “I enjoyed all of the speakers. They were motivational and uplifting.”
Jahleel was able to snag a selfie with Booker before he departed for the afternoon.
Youth and adults alike had the opportunity to reflect on Dr. King’s dream and what they are doing to make it come true.