Elaena Fanese Swanton, a West Orange-Stark High School graduate, said she and her children marched in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day “A Step Towards Unity” march on January 19 because she believes equality should not be a dream anymore, it should be a reality.

“I marched because we are living the dream in part and I believe that the future generations will be the ones to carry it out to its full potential. And, I love my community,” she said.

The MLK Day march returned this year after a two-year absence. The march began at Solomon Johnson Park at 2nd Street and W. Turret Ave. in Orange. The march proceeded to the Orange County Courthouse where a series of speeches were made to celebrate the day.

Dr. Jackie Mayfield, president of the NAACP in Orange, told the audience on the steps of the courthouse he’s an old soldier and he was encouraged by the turnout at the event. He added Dr. King’s lieutenants and soldiers also began working in civil rights when they were young.

“Life is a continuum, it’s not a vacuum,” Mayfield said. “We need the young people to take over and move it to another level. The fight never ends.

“I want to encourage you to take up the mantle and fight. There’s plenty of problems in Orange that need addressing. There’s no ‘they’ to do things; it’s only you.”

The Rev. Franklin Gans, vice president of the Orange chapter NAACP, said he fulfilled his dreams of teaching math and being a businessman.

He added he was energized by Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech because Gans admired him so much.

“It takes a community to help the children grow up,” Gans said.

Gans said he remembers how Dr. Emmitt and Marie Harris taught him behind the scenes while growing up that helped him to grow and to speak with confidence and conviction.

His first speech he ever delivered, likewise, was titled “The Responsibility of Youth.”

“It’s your day (Gans said to the youths in the audience). Take the lead,” he said.

Larry Spears Jr., Orange city councilman, gave the first speech at the event.

He encouraged those in attendance to have faith, hope, be thankful and leave the children a better tomorrow.

“Our children are the future,” he said. “Our school system is on the rise and our community can come together. Dr. King said we need to look at the content of character of a person and not the color of their skin.

“What do you want to be in life? How do you get there? When do you start? It starts today. Parents need to reach out to the children.”

Spears said MLK was jailed over 30 times in his young live, he traveled six million miles and gave 2,200 speeches.

Patrick Jordan, a 1981 graduate of West Orange-Stark High School, said he joined the Air Force after high school. He has since earned two Bachelor degrees and a Masters degree.

“I was a lazy kid, but it takes a village. “I was led by examples. There are people in our lives to instruct us. Anything we do in life we can do if we’re in God’s will,” Jordan said.

Larry Anderson was present at the first MLK Day march held in Orange in 1985. He concluded the program by reading Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

In addition to the speeches, WOS HS students Mia Richard and Nathan Haynes read poems.


Photo – Larry Spears Jr., Orange city councilman, speaks at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day “A Step Towards Unity march held on Monday. The march was from Solomon Johnson Park to the Orange County Courthouse to celebrate the day.