The third annual commemoration of the 1970 Black Easter civil rights march on the Covington square was filled with speeches reminding attendees that the fight for racial equality is not over.
Sunday's event drew a crowd of approximately 40 people, both black and white. Several members of the audience wore overalls in honor of the overalls and old clothes worn in the first march 38 years ago. During Black Easter, black residents in Newton County took part in a three-month, county-wide economic boycott to protest the segregationist policies of the time.
"We try to get along racially in this city but we have problems racially all over the country," said Forrest Sawyer Jr., an organizer of the event and a leader of the Covington civil rights movement in 1970.
Roger Smith, a Vietnam veteran, recalled when he returned from the war he found his treatment abroad to be better than what he received upon returning home as a black man living in the segregated South.
"To come here and feel like your treatment in the war zone was better than your treatment at home, that's a very disheartening feeling," Smith said.
Smith encouraged attendees to not be silent when they heard or saw instances of racism.
"You can no longer be part of the silent majority," Smith said. "You have to be vocal about how you feel. Stand up and speak for what's right."
In attendance at Sunday's event were several elected officials including District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson, Covington Mayor Kim Carter, Covington Councilwomen Janet Goodman, Hawnethia Williams, Ocie Franklin and State Rep. Tyrone Brooks (R-Atlanta).
"We have come a long way and we hope that we don't ever go back to the way it was in 1970," said Carter who spoke briefly at the event.
Both Goodman and Williams led the crowd in singing several rousing songs from the civil rights era.
"We cannot sit on our laurels," Williams told the crowd. "We cannot continue to talk about the 1970s when we're not involved, when we're not voting. We cannot be apathetic."
Several of Sunday's speakers were intimately involved in planning the civil rights protests and recounted their experiences to the audience.
"We had people in our yard at night," said Goodman who was another leader of the movement. "We had our phones tapped. It was not play."
Brooks encouraged members of the crowd to attend the annual march on the Moore's Ford Bridge on April 4.
Next Friday's march will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and call for a renewed investigation into the still unsolved 1946 lynchings of four black sharecroppers on Moore's Ford Bridge in Monroe.
"We must continue Dr. King's work by focusing on this lynching," Brooks said. "The suspects are still living."