CATSKILL – Catskill Central School District students honored the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 21st Annual March for Peace and Justice.
More than 150 people paid their respects to King and other fallen civil rights heroes in a tradition held in February to coincide with Black History Month.
The march began at the Second Baptist Church on Main Street with the first stop at the Greene County Courthouse. The procession concluded on the lawn in front of Catskill Middle School.
“Dr. King was like our first black president,” said Second Baptist Church senior pastor Richard Turpin. “He put everything out there to let people know what he was waiting for. I wish he was still here to see what happened. If it wasn’t for Dr. King, Rosa Parks and others we’d still be stuck in the 50s and 60s. He was a good man.
The Rev. Dr. Shanell E. Turpin, associate pastor at Second Baptist Church, opened the ceremony with the blessing.
Sixth grader Lorenzo Ivery, ll, spoke about the church’s role in the civil rights movement when the church played a vital role. It was not only a place of worship but also served as a meeting and organizational place, he said.
As the march began, the students were escorted by Catskill Police as the percussion corps made their way to the courthouse, where middle schooler Joselynn Reid-Guzman spoke about the importance courts have during the rights era civilians, and then of Catskill Middle School. Courts have played an important role in the civil rights movement and in historic cases including Brown v. Topeka Board of Education in 1954. Brown was decided in a landmark US Supreme Court ruling that declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional.
Christa Dedrick and Kim Bushane welcomed everyone to the event at the middle school, followed by Saxton’s USA Boy Scouts Troop 131 colors unveiling and Palenville’s Brownie Troop 5517 pledge of allegiance.
Catskill District Superintendent Suzanne Barrow delivered the keynote address. In her speech, she noted the impact King had on the nation and the importance of education.
“Thanks to Dr. King’s work and sacrifice, the United States has made progress, but there is still work to be done to ensure that people have equal access to resources so they can lead full and meaningful lives.” Barrow said. . “Education is a key component to living a full and meaningful life.”
Barrow’s speech was followed by the Catskill High School Concert Chorus, who performed “Turn Me Around”, “Hymn to Freedom”, and “Let There Be Peace on Earth”, all themes of the civil rights movement. In recent years, the songs have become a rallying cry for black America.
Later it was a tribute to Dr. King’s most powerful messages. Catskill Elementary School counselors Barbara Erceg, Courtney Near and Matt Luvera spoke about the impact King has had on the community.
Student Nate Timot recited King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. A tribute from Catskill High School principal Junait Shah was a moment of silence for influential African Americans including the Rev. Calvin O Butts III (1949-2022), Cecilia Marshall (1928-2022), Gloria Richardson (1922-2021), and Bill Russell (1934-2022).
Student Raven Lynch played taps. The blessing was performed by local interfaith leaders Rev. Richard Turpin, Deacon Ron Dombrowski and Rabbi Zoe B. Zak of Temple Israel in the Catskill.
The night ended on a somber note with everyone in attendance chanting “We Shall Overcome” in memory of the people who served on the front lines of the civil rights movement. The song became the anthem of the modern movement to overcome racial injustice.
“Black history is American history,” said the Reverend Richard Turpin. “I hope today they open their eyes to the fact that this is the American story. That’s what my parents and grandparents went through and now we’re going through the same thing, but on a different level.”