CRESTVIEW — Civic involvement is one way to further Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision, speakers said on Saturday during events commemorating the civil rights advocate.

CRESTVIEW — Civic involvement is one way to further Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision, speakers said on Saturday during events commemorating the civil rights advocate.

This year’s guest speaker, Adrienne McKinnie, spoke about King’s accomplishments before his death in 1968. The clergyman — who taught civil disobedience in response to racial disparities — earned the Nobel Peace Prize and was Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” in 1964.

Marching and preaching for racial equality in pursuit of social justice was dangerous, but did not deter King, McKinnie said.

 “Many expressed their concern to him that death was a possibility, if not inevitable,” she said. “However, he kept on marching and being the voice of people who would not or could not speak for themselves.”

McKinnie, a funeral home director and Crestview Kiwanis club and Carver-Hill Memorial and Historical Society member, said the nation — despite making significant strides in racial equality since the 1960s — still has division.

“We are a nation divided on several issues and our elected officials in Washington cannot seem to mend it,” she said. “The American people need better representation.”

And if elected leaders can’t bring unity, perhaps a grassroots effort would help, she said.

“Remember to always capitalize on your strengths and build up your weaknesses,” McKinnie said. "Make a difference.”

She called on residents to become more involved in their community by voting and attending city council or county commission meetings.

"Martin Luther King didn't ask to be leader; he was passed the baton and he ran with it ... citizens of Crestview and the surrounding areas, I now pass the baton to you," McKinnie said. 

Nearly 100 residents last weekend publicly took part in remembering King.

Residents gathered near the courthouse following the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade, which wended down Main Street in downtown Crestview.

The Concerned Citizens Group of Crestview and the Carver-Hill Memorial and Historical Society presented the event. This year’s parade theme was “Living the Legacy.” The program featured guest speakers from the community, who spoke on the legacy that King, who would have been 84 on Jan. 15, left behind.

Turnout was lower than at previous events, Crestview City Councilman Tim Grandberry said. 

Jill Lewis-Daggs of Niceville agreed.

“I wish more people would have come out,” she said, adding it’s important for future generations to learn about what King had accomplished during his lifetime.

Those who did attend said it’s important to recognize past milestones to determine where the mission — or King’s much discussed “dream”—leads next.

 “It shows how much we appreciate what he has done and how far we have come,” Grandberry said. “We still have a distance to go, but we are still continuing going forward.”

Grandberry, fellow council members and city officials attended the program with Mayor David Cadle, who gave a proclamation for the event.

Participants sang the hymns “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “We Shall Overcome.”

The songs and efforts reached a new generation who can only imagine segregated times from reading school textbooks.

“I think that is wonderful that they do it in remembrance of (King),” Jenna Renee-Daggs, 11, said. “It means a lot to me.”

When asked what she hoped younger children would take away from today’s event, the Rocky Bayou Christian School student had one response.

“To stand up for what they believe in and to defend what they know is right,” said the student, who sang the National Anthem at the event.

A youth group from Beulah No. 1 Missionary Baptist Church in Milligan also took part in the parade and attended the program. The church youth director, Sylvia Hendrix, stressed the importance of continuing King’s legacy.

“I think it’s good for the youth to learn more about Martin Luther King Jr. (for) what he did,” Hendrix said. “I think it’s a great learning experience.”

Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.