YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Across the nation, people are remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as one of the most prominent leaders in the civil rights movement, Monday was full of national and local events in honor of King’s legacy.
Local nonprofit group Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past educates students in the area on the history of the civil rights movement.
Members Natalia McRae and Penny Wells reflect on what Martin Luther King Jr. Day means to them.
“I think about the Lorrainne Hotel, where he was assassinated. I think about his church in Atlanta. I think about his family. I think about marching and I have this T-shirt that says, ‘I am a man.’ I think about civil rights,” said McRae, a Youngstown State University student.
According to McRae, her trips down South to various civil rights sites have opened her eyes to who King truly was. She’s been on two Sojourn trips with Wells.
“You get to see how things have trickled down into today, how things are still similar in ways, how they’re much, much more different and how we’ve overcome so much,” McRae said. “It kind of allows you to be more grateful.”
McRae said it’s hard to imagine what the world would be like without King.
“I do not think it would be as equal or as just at all. Even in his death, that really pushed a lot of change especially,” McRae said. “For him to not be here, I think there would be much more violence and much more chaos between races, as we like to put it.”
King is well-remembered for his nonviolent approach to bringing about equality and civil rights for African Americans. McRae wishes to see the Valley embody King’s peaceful persona.
“When we stop hating each other and spewing hatred, violence and anger, we’ll start to change things so much more,” McRae said. “It’s okay to disagree, it’s okay to get upset because when someone feels hurt, they’ll hurt. But I think just starting in our community, I think we should definitely reduce our crime and the violence.”
McRae said putting an end to violence isn’t the only thing.
“Stop giving our kids a picture of Martin Luther King to color and saying ‘civil rights,’ and stop associating things with Black History Month. Get out of the box, research,” McRae said. “I think Martin Luther King Jr. Day is definitely a day of reflection for us to reflect upon what we’ve been through, what we’ve come across and how to change things.”
Wells and McRae encourage students in the area to look into the Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past‘s trip.