April 6, 2018

By Tonesha Williams

Simon Youth Academy

Standing on hallowed ground. Standing on history.

These are the words that ran through my mind during “Still We Reach: Community Reflection & Conversation,” a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on Wednesday morning.

Tonesha Williams

Standing in Martin Luther King Jr. Park, with the Landmark for Peace Memorial in the background, I attentively listened to speeches from local and national dignitaries, soaking up anything and everything that was being vocalized and taught.

During those amazing speeches, I learned that Robert F. Kennedy was running for president when he was informed that Dr. King had been assassinated on April 4, 1968. Kennedy, who was in Indianapolis promoting his campaign, had a decision to make. Should he make a public announcement about King’s death or not? He chose to go public.

While informing an Indianapolis crowd gathered in the same park as Wednesday’s 50th anniversary celebration about King’s death, Kennedy gave an amazing speech that united Indianapolis and brought peace — instead of destruction — that day.

While news spread throughout the country and our neighboring states were rioting, my dear city, Indianapolis, stayed calm. It is that very peace that we need to practice today.

Before Wednesday’s ceremony began, the sky was dark and gloomy, snow was falling and the wind was whipping. Suddenly, during the event, the sun began to shine, coloring the whole park in vivid colors of green and blue. Even the clouds parted to make way for the rays. And I thought, “This might be them (King and Kennedy), shining down on us in appreciation.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb told the crowd that “Robert (Kennedy) turned a moment of national tragedy to a call for unity.”

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, also a civil rights pioneer who worked and marched with Dr. King, humbly reminded all of us about the man MLK was to him and to everyone.

“I cried,” said Lewis, when he learned about the assassination of Dr. King, his friend. “I lost a friend. I lost a big brother. I lost my leader.”

My experience with the 50th anniversary celebration of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was very inspiring. I left that day with high hopes and aspirations to continue striving forward.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to be there, even during the cold.

I also felt that I had an obligation to be there because this is about my history. It’s about OUR history. It’s about the ultimate sacrifice for change and a great leader — hated by many, but loved by more — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

And although his death happened 50 years ago, it’s still fresh on our minds today.

*Tonesha will attend Harrison College after high school graduation in June. She aspires to be a registered nurse.