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Posted: April 15, 2009 12:00 a.m.

Remembering where we came from

Community leaders mark 39th anniversary of Black Easter march

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Covington Mayor Kim Carter

About 30 city and county leaders and residents gathered on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the Black Easter march of 1970.

That year marked a turning point in the civil rights struggle in Newton County, as the black community held a boycott of segregated businesses, traveling to Decatur for groceries and basic goods, said community activist Forrest Sawyer Jr. There were numerous marches that year, culminating in the Black Easter March, which saw thousands of protesters gathered in the square.

Leaders urged residents not to forget this critical part of the county's history

Covington City Councilmember Hawnethia Williams said, "We have to always look back, in order to look forward. And we need to appreciate those persons who have led the way, who have pioneered, who have set the stage to what we are today."

"We stand on the shoulders of many persons," she said. "We should not take any of those persons for granted. "

County Chairman Kathy Morgan commended the attendees for being out at the event. "We cannot just sit by and expect things to happen just because they're supposed to happen. When we see a wrong, or we see negligence in our community, we all have to stand up and say 'This is not what we want. This is not the kind of community we want to live in.'"

Bobby Howard, a founder of the Social Circle chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, thanked Covington and Newton County residents for supporting the April 4 march and the investigation into the Moore’s Ford lynching and keeping hope alive that the case would eventually be solved.

"There are still some of those suspects that are living today," he said. "That shameful, hidden part of America’s history needs to be told. That deals with the history of black people in America."

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, a longtime civil rights leader, said the efforts and marches have brought about results.

"The Emmett Till bill is now federal law," he said. "This marching and activism has produced very positive results. So I want to thank you for that."

Leaders also focused on the progress made, and on the future.

Covington Mayor Kim Carter said "It was 39 years ago, the commemoration of Black Easter. That's a long struggle. My message is, let's don’t forget the struggle, but let's look forward to where we want it to go."

Deacon Richard Johnson said, "I don't remember the past as a stumbling block, but as a stepping stone." He urged listeners to do the same "Don't use your past as a stumbling block but as a stepping stone."

County commissioner J.C. Henderson observed how times had changed.

"A long time ago, we used to have to march, as we did back in the ‘60s," he said. "But times have changed today. You no longer have to march. All you have to do, on election day, is make sure that your cousin, your uncle and your sister go out and vote, and you can change it. And the good news is, we did just that. We showed up and we showed out early. And we made a big difference."

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