Chapel Hill High School senior Victoria Fonville and UNC sophomore De’Ivyion Drew also spoke at the rally. Drew stressed campus issues as crucial to social justice developments in the coming year, as well as the importance of community involvement.
“The Town of Chapel Hill is very much a part of it because this is their city,” Drew said. “We as a University who have placed ourselves in Chapel Hill should be more receptive to and prioritize the community needs.”
Chapel Hill resident Eugene Farrar, was one of the over 100 attendees of Monday’s event. Farrar, the former president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, brought a sign reading, “Fight poverty, not the poor.”
“We have the most resourceful country in the world yet we still have people that are homeless,” Farrar said. “We have people who go to bed hungry, or wake up with not enough food in the refrigerator.”
Penny Rich, chairperson of the Board of Orange County Commissioners, also stressed the importance of maintaining community health to further equity goals. Rich mentioned education, affordable housing and accessible community services as among the county’s social justice-oriented goals for the coming year.
“We’re trying to view everything through a social justice lens,” Rich said. “That’s what I think Dr. King always wanted from African-American people, white people, any people, is just to look at things through a lens that you wouldn’t normally.”
State leaders who attended the event included N.C. Sen. Valerie Foushee, D-District 23, and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham. Cunningham said he was excited by the rally’s energy.
“One of the key parts of his message is that we are called to be our brothers' and sisters’ keepers — that we have an obligation in our short time here on earth to serve each other and to be mindful of what it means to look after our neighbors,” Cunningham said.
Foushee, who represents Orange and Chatham counties in the N.C. Senate, also referenced education as an important aspect of preserving King’s legacy.
“There’s no question that education is the great leveler,” Foushee said. “And so it seems that right now in North Carolina we’ve abdicated our responsibility for ensuring that every child gets the opportunity to learn regardless of zip code.”
UNC law professor Gene Nichol was the keynote speaker at the event’s interfaith service later in the morning. He spoke on Dr. King’s lasting legacy of social and political activism.
“We are required to stand: everyone in this community, every member of this state, Republican, Democrat, White, Black, Latino, every member of this rainbow,” Nichol said. “We’re required to stand because somewhere we read ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"
As Chapel Hill looks forward to its social justice goals in the coming year, Nichols urged community members to look backward to the struggle and sacrifice of civil rights champions like Martin Luther King.
“Like any mortal, he was scared to die, but he refused to cower,” Nichols said. “He was not immune from the stains and tensions of human frailty, but he did rise against them.”
@DTHCityState | email@example.com