During the civil rights movement, marches were used to protest race-based social inequality. Monday's 18th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom March was both a celebration and a call to action to protest some of the issues still present.
Hundreds gathered at Sadie Thomas Park to sing and pray before embarking on the 2.5-mile march to Kemp Elementary School. More than 900 people marched and stood along the streets for the annual event, and about 600 people stayed after for a program at Kemp Elementary with guest speaker Se7en, a poet from Houston, said Agnes Gray, a member of the Brazos Valley Area Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, which sponsors the march every year.
Participants said the march serves as a remembrance to those who gave their lives for believing in a cause.
"It's what we do to pay respect to not just Martin Luther King, but to everybody that was in the civil rights struggle, and to be a visual representation in the Bryan-College Station community of what he did, and that we're still trying to make changes today," said Edward L. Tarlton, a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
He and 14 other members of the fraternity rode along the route on Bus 12, an independent A&M spirit bus. The owner of the bus, Roger Lane, said it was important to be at the march to be involved in the community.
"A lot of people say diversity is our strength," Lane said. "It's not. Unity is our strength. And how can we be unified if we're not here?"
Those participating traveled from all over the Brazos Valley to see the annual march and pay their respects to King. Robertson County resident Dawn Jefferson participated in the march for the first time last year and asked a friend to join her at this year's event.
She said it's important to honor King's legacy because of all that he did for civil rights for all people, though especially for the black community.
"Everything that he's done, including losing his life behind it. It's just all-important for me to try to continue to do some of those type of things in my own community as well," she said. "So whenever I have the opportunity to participate in a worthwhile endeavor, and I'm able and willing, I do it."
Those marching acknowledged that King paved the way for other minorities to find equality as well, though they said the country still has a ways to go.
"Some of the same things that we were marching for back then, some things have gotten better, but not everything, and especially in this economic and political environment, we still need to make change," Tarlton said. "Because Martin Luther King wasn't just for civil rights, he was for everyone's rights. There's still things going on with women, African-Americans, especially in Texas, Hispanics, as far as moving them toward citizenship -- it's about equality, no matter what."