Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto quoted Martin Luther King Jr. as participants of the third annual Unity March settled in Pickett-Rucker United Methodist Church on Monday.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that," he repeated to the crowd.
Although folks celebrated the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the name fresh on everyone's mind was 13-year-old Insatiable C'Asia Patton. Patton died Jan. 8 from a fatal gunshot during a drive-by shooting. The residence belonging to Minnie McReynolds, C'Asia's grandmother, was hit multiple times with gunfire - several rounds, such as the one that claimed C'Asia, entering the home. Authorities said Patton was not believed to be the intended victim of the shooting. She was asleep when the crime occurred.
An arrest in the case was made Tuesday, and authorities continue to investigate the shooting.
State Rep. Mark Pody offered inspirational words during his time at the podium to reflect on what is going on both locally and nationally.
"Tragedy happened not only here but all over... If we put Christ first and work together we can solve these issues," he said.
Hutto also mentioned C'Asia during his remarks. "(What happened with) C'Asia tells us that destruction is sometimes right here at home. We must remember that trouble is not always far off," he said before touching on King's 'I Have A Dream' speech. "What phase of that dream are we in? What part are you going to have in that dream? Each of us plays a part in making this a better place to live."
Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead, who also spoke at C'Asia's funeral, reiterated his commitment to finding a solution for violence in our city. "Our city has had three weeks of things happening in it that we are not used to... It's been hard," he said.
Craighead reflected on the teachings of Dr. King and how they applied to the situation today.
"We need to teach kids what it means to be friends, to care for each other and to be respectful to all," he said.
Caroline Meek spoke on behalf of Lori Seay about a club for young girls that C'Asia wanted to start before her untimely passing. The club would work with girls to teach them etiquette, job skills, dressing, building character, about avoiding drugs and more.
"There is still groundwork to be done, but we are looking forward to sharing C'Asia's dream," she said, adding that they hoped to name the club in her honor.
Several special guests were in attendance at the luncheon, including County Commissioner Annette Stafford, Ward 2 City Council Member Fred Burton and Mary Harris, president of the Wilson County Black History Committee.
Pickett Rucker UMC Pastor Michael Ruttlen told the crowd that the purpose of the Unity March was not to get exercise, but to make a statement and a difference in our community. Market Street Church of Christ Youth Minister Michael A. Neal performed a solo - "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
James Neuble, Director of Neuble Monument Funeral Home, served as event emcee. He recognized audience members who were active during the Civil Rights Movement.
Neuble referred to a scene in the movie "The Butler" in which a group of African Americans visited a restaurant and sat to receive service during that era. "They sat in Wilson County so that I might have service today. A lot of times we look far and beyond but forget those people who fought for us," he said, noting that his grandfather was an activist. "We have a lot of history right here in Wilson County. We've had a lot of people do some great things."
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.