Annual Springfield Martin Luther King Jr. march draws large crowd

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Estimates are more than 1,000 people marched through downtown Springfield Monday morning in the cold, ending at the Gillioz Theater, in honor of Martin Luther King Junior.

Marchers bundled up and braved temperatures in the teens.
Some have joined in this ceremonial walk year after year.

"The crowd has actually grown; matter of fact, it seems like it's actually doubled," says Lamarr Jamerson, New Hope International Ministries pastor.

And for some, today's march was a first.

"I definitely thought this was a good way to spend my day, because I've never done anything like this before," said Willard High School student Emily Jenkins.

Willard Schools was one of many districts that encouraged students to participate on their day off. "We were just trying to gather as many students as we could to come out, stand in solidarity at the march," said Brandon Compton, Willard High School theater teacher.

They march in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and for peace, justice and equality.

Jenkins says, "Just being with everybody, and you don't have to know everybody here, but we're all here for the same purpose; I think it's a really cool thing."

The strong turnout is encouraging for those who work for equality and inclusion. Jamerson says, "Springfield has actually come a long ways.
Do we have some leaps and bounds to get over? We do. But we can actually see that those things will be dealt with through times, especially times like this."

The celebration continued inside the Gillioz theater, with chants of this year's theme, This is What Community Looks Like.

Organizers led the crowd in looking back on Dr. King's life as a civil rights leader, advocate, activist, and man of faith.

Those who joined in today's celebration say they're looking forward as a community.

"Each year, it shows that the community of Springfield is a little bit more together, more inclusive, and it shows how we're really united," says Jamerson.

Willard was far from the only school with students at the march. We hear Springfield Public Schools sent busloads, and there were also students from as far away as Lebanon, Branson and Nevada.