HAMMOND | Under the banner of “United in the Struggle,” several hundred people marched from City Hall to the Hammond Civic Center on Monday for an annual candlelight march and commemoration program in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.
Monday's event was sponsored by Hammond and the Ministerial Alliance of Hammond and Vicinity.
Joann Price, an attorney and key speaker for the program, said some people think there’s nothing left do and feel disenchanted.
“They choose to do nothing,” she said. “Some people don’t do anything for a fear of sense of loss. But there’s a sense of fear that those individuals who have gone before us laid aside in order for them to make the effort that we now applaud and celebrate, especially today on Dr. King’s birthday.
"No matter where we are, no matter who we are, we have to move and make concentrated efforts to impact every area of human endeavor.”
Price said the way to do that is to struggle.
“Don’t be afraid of the struggle,” she said.
Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said there are problems Americans still are working through 50 years after the Civil Rights Act.
Hammond is one of the most diverse cities in Indiana and the United States, and King “would be proud of seeing our kids and how they work and play together," McDermott said.
“Younger kids don’t see race the way older Americans do,” he said.
Councilman Anthony Higgs, who represents Hammond's 3rd District, said there are some issues the city is facing on a regular basis.
“I won’t deny the fact that I’m the only African-American who sits on the City Council,” Higgs said. “In that capacity, there are great responsibilities. I was elected to do a job. In that capacity of being elected, I will do the job, but I need each and every one of you to help. It’s our responsibility to move this city forward.”
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, said at one time King said “that no work is insignificant.”
“But today it is very hard for people who work for a living to make a just wage and living wage,” Visclosky said.
For one hour’s worth of work, Americans made more in 1977 than they did last year, Visclosky said.
Some of his colleagues suggest people who receive food stamps are lazy, he said.
“I would remind my colleagues that more than 30 percent of the people who receive assistance because they need it have earned income but can’t make enough today to be able to get by,” he said.
Visclosky held up the Social Security program an an answer to those who say the federal government has no role in trying to ensure people can make a living wage or that the federal government can’t do anything right. It's unfortunate that 15 percent of those age 65 or older in America live in poverty, he said. If the federal government weren’t running the Social Security program, that figure would be 55 percent.
“So it certainly comes upon officials such as myself and all of us to recommit ... to do everything we can to make sure we do have a just society," he said.