MACON, Ga. — Every year on the third Monday of January, the nation honors the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
King grew up in Atlanta and became a pastor at the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church there while fighting for civil rights in the 50s and 60s.
In 1964, King became the youngest man to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Four years later, he was assassinated.
Shortly after his death, people campaigned to honor him by making his birthday a federal holiday. President Ronald Reagan signed it into law nearly two decades later.
The Houston County NAACP Martin Luther King Jr. celebration looked a bit different this year because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of a march, a car caravan went from Warner Robins to Perry Monday morning.
“This is an unconventional way to do it, but we still wanted to celebrate,” said member Lori Thomie.
The civil rights organization led a motorcade with more than 20 cars. Due to COVID-19, it was the first time many people didn’t march side-by-side to remember King.
Houston County NAACP president, Rev. Rutha Jackson, said it was important to find a safe way to celebrate.
“Because we don't want to lose sight of the importance of our heritage, the importance of the things that Dr. King did for us to have to justice and equality,” said Jackson.
While Monday’s event focused on the victories of the past, 13WMAZ Junior Journalist Joshua Ratchford Jr. was this year’s keynote speaker and used the day as a blueprint for the future.
"We're the next generation, we're the future., and we need to see how to lead our nation,” said Ratchford.
Up I-75 in Macon, the county’s annual MLK Memorial March was also canceled because of the pandemic, but people still found a way to celebrate.
Faith and political leaders gathered at Rosa Parks Square in downtown Macon on Monday afternoon for a wreath laying ceremony.
There were speeches honoring his legacy, prayers and music. Rev. Johnny Mathis brought his granddaughter, Ariana, to the celebration to show her why King still means so much to so many.
“I want her to know at an early age what Dr. King espoused and that's the beloved community. When we look at each other's differences and we value those, and yet we find common ground,” said Mathis.
He says he will always be grateful to King because he taught him at early age that African-American men could be leaders.