COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — The drum rolls from Liberty Theatre were heard before they were seen as a procession made its way to the historic Prince Hall Masonic Temple. The Columbus Consolidated Government partnered with several community organizations to celebrate MLK Day in the Fountain City. 

As people filed into the building, they entered a sacred space: a place where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stood, back in July of 1958. 

Dr. King spoke at the now historic site in front of over 1,000 people. In a time where black Columbusites lived in constant fear of violence from the Ku Klux Klan, the Prince Hall masons hosted King so that local black churches would not become targets due to his presence. 

Dr. King’s presence still lingered in the building on Monday as Spivey Green reenacted his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” — a speech that years later still has the same resounding impact.

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia songs of former slaves and sonds of former slave owners will sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the Columbus community, the words, actions and legacy of Dr. King continues to live on. The Dream Lives Choir gave a musical performances throughout the service, and several speakers shared their stories in connection to the meaning of MLK day.

Brandon P. Fleming gave a keynote address, sharing his struggles of going from “at-risk youth” to award-winning educator at Harvard University. Fleming is Assistant Debate Coach at Harvard and Founder/CEO of the Harvard Diversity Project. The Diversity Project “recruits underserved youth with no prior debate experience. Fleming then “trains to compete against hundreds of elite debaters from over 25 different countries around the world.” 

“If you want to lead the next generation you need to understand… representation is the lens through which we dream. Because young people can’t be what they can’t see. I didn’t see black scholars in my community, I didn’t see black scholars in my textbooks, I didn’t see black scholars on my television so I couldn’t aspire to it.”

Brandon P. Fleming

“Love conquers evil. Right overcomes wrong. That we’re in this country together. Black and white, red and yellow…  regardless of race, creed, national origin, we need to be together.”

Rev. Dr. Emmett S. Aniton, Jr. Pastor, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church

As the community reflects on how far they have come, city leaders say there is still work to be done.

“The ideals of Dr. King were pretty lofty. He believed that everyone deserves equal justice, everybody deserves equal opportunities… equal economic opportunity. He went after that goal with unconditional love in a nonviolent way… in a world that was not nonviolent. We’ve accomplished so much in keeping with his legacy, but we’re not there yet.”

Skip Henderson, Columbus Mayor