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Keeping the dream alive

January 18, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - With the civil rights movements of the 1960s and Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I have a dream" speech fading further into the national memory, a dedicated group marched through Jefferson County Sunday afternoon to help keep King's dream alive.

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"So many kids today don't even know why they don't have school (today)," said George Rutherford. "Kids today aren't as aware of Dr. King - who he was and what he did. We have to keep that dream of peace, love and justice alive."

Rutherford, president of the Jefferson County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, joined about 50 people for a 20-minute march from the King Apostle Holiness Church in Ranson, W.Va., to a service with area clergy at the House of Prayer Church in neighboring Charles Town.

The annual Freedom Trail march has been held for the last 15 years in Jefferson County to celebrate King's 1929 birthday. The famed civil rights leader was assassinated in 1968 and his birthday is now a national holiday.

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Singing and carrying signs that read "Justice Now" and "Peace Love Forever," the men and women were a mixture of black and white and young and old.

While America has made progress in the fight against racism, Rutherford said much work must still be done.

"There aren't so many white sheets as there are white collars," Rutherford said. "The racism is still there in the banks and the boardrooms. We've made progress, but we've lost ground as well."

"There are a little better jobs, housing and education - but it's not enough," he added.

Rutherford said the nation needs another watershed movement like the one King led in the '60s. Rutherford added he was encouraged by the number of young people at Sunday's march.

"We have children here from 1 to 16 years old," he said. "Hopefully, they will continue this."

Warren Stewart, 16, of Charles Town, said more people need to take King's message to heart.

"People should live out his dream," Stewart said. "Don't just hear the words. Live it."

Dora Yates, of Charles Town, said today's young people must be taught about King and his words and added achieving the goal of equality needs to start now.

"The dream is still alive, but we must press on," Yates said. "If you let your dreams die, then what else is there?"

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