Monday morning's Unity March and Rally through downtown Durham was not Mary Grace's first demonstration.
In fact, part of what brought her out to the event celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. was one of her experiences at a nonviolent demonstration. While she was being arrested, a zipper on her clothing pressed against her throat, she said. She couldn't breathe.
When her husband told her about Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died after being put in a chokehold by a police officer, she immediately empathized with him. She made a sign and sat it on her front porch weeks ago. Monday, she carried it with her as she walked past restaurants, businesses and coffee shops in Durham, along with hundreds of other marchers.
The sign read, "I can't breathe."
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Current events, including Garner's death and national discussion on police brutality, brought a new dimension to this year's march. But its message of honoring King and his commitment to civil rights remained the same.
The march started at the N.C. Mutual Life Insurance building on Chapel Hill Street and ended at First Presbyterian Church on Main Street. Police officers accompanied the marchers.
Before it began, several speakers addressed the crowd.
"Today we gather to remember and keep alive the legacy and the witness of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, who helped launch the movement over a half century ago at a time when our country did not believe many lives mattered," said Spencer Bradford, the executive director of Durham Congregations in Action.
"Today, we walk together, and we sing together, to celebrate the truth that that is not simply history; that it is a living legacy that we are committed to keeping alive," he said.
Cora Cole-McFadden, Durham's mayor pro tempore, emphasized how much is left to do in carrying out King's work.
"We've come a long way, but we've lost ground," she said. "We have a lot of work to do."
Mike Woodard, one of Durham's two state senate members, echoed her belief. He referenced the film "Selma," which is in theaters now and chronicles King's march from Selma to Montgomery.
"I left with one message, and that is in our struggle for justice, everybody has a job to do," Woodard said.
"The fight for justice begins anew every morning," he said.
Several members of Alpha Phi Alpha marched behind a banner bearing the fraternity's name. King was a member, they said.
Eric Heath, the fraternity's area director for the central area including Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill, said that although he attends the MLK march most years, this year was different.
"I think we all have seen the news lately and we're all concerned about black lives," he said. "We're here to celebrate (King's) life and his legacy and to say that all lives matter."
He repeated that while much has been accomplished, "there's still a long way to go." Inequality today presents itself in different ways, such as through fair housing and equal treatment under the law, he said.
"We hope for - just as Dr. King said - a society where people are not judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character," Heath said.
Grace said she brought her "I can't breathe" sign to the march celebrating King's life because "it's all linked together."
"The reality is we've been killing people economically, just as lynching killed people," she said. "Human rights and justice and civil rights and economic rights are all pieces of a puzzle that should all be pieced together."