Andre Richmond doesn’t need the holiday to remind him of Martin Luther King Jr.’s message.
He was born on the civil rights leader’s Jan. 15 birthday.
“It means a lot,” said Richmond, an investigator for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, as he stood Monday with his wife Denelle’s head on his shoulder.
“Growing up, that’s all I knew,” he said. “My mom and family always instilled in me to share his values.”
About 200 people gathered on a gray, winter morning outside the old Orange County Courthouse to celebrate King’s values of equality and community during the Northern Orange Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative March.
A male choir led the crowd in “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Deacon Frances Bradshaw of Efland, the Rev. Dr. Brenda Crowder-Gaines of Hillsborough and the Rev. George Crews of Mebane read scripture and recited a prayer.
Local government leaders and Sheriff Charles Blackwood attended the ceremony, before an honor guard led the group up Churton Street to Dickerson Chapel for a service.
At the rally, Mayor Tom Stevens welcomed everyone but then noted how for much of U.S. and local history that is something that many people have not always felt.
“This is a historic town, and sadly not everyone in our history was welcome,” he said of Hillsborough, a colonial town founded in 1754 and where wooden signs mark the ages of many older homes.
“We too have a history of slavery and Jim Crow and racism,” Stevens said.
After a “heartbreaking and divisive” election, the mayor encouraged the huddled crowd to remember the quote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” King wrote that in 1963’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in defense of non-violent, civil disobedience in the fight for equality.
“We stand together for justice and dignity and fairness,” Stevens said. “I hope we gather to recommit ourselves to the work of justice, because we really need to.”