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Southfield — Serica Simon braved the cold Monday to join hundreds on a peace march to honor the memory and legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

She said she has participated in the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Peace Walk Celebration in Southfield for the last eight years to teach her three young children — Harmoni, 10, Imani, 5 and Willie, 4 — about history.

“It’s not always been easy for us,” the 32-year-old special education teacher from Southfield said. “So we walk in remembrance of everything we’ve gone through — and still going through.”

Simon joined hundreds of Metro Detroiters in below freezing temperatures Monday to honor King’s memory and legacy at the event.

Organized by the city of Southfield and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Task Force, the walk began at 9:30 a.m. at Hope United Methodist Church on Northwestern Highway between Lahser and Civic Center Drive. The group walked a little more than a mile to the Southfield Municipal Complex on Evergreen, where a celebration program was held at the Southfield Pavilion.

It was among the dozens of breakfasts, performances, marches, bike rides, service projects and museum programs across Metro Detroit to honor King’s legacy.

Before the walk, marchers gathered in the church’s gymnasium. The group was made up of people of all ages and all races.

The Rev. Kevin Smalls, Hope United’s senior pastor, welcomed everyone.

“It’s important that we maintain the relevancy of Dr. King,” he said. “That’s going to be critical for us in days to come,” he said. “We must not be disconnected from those who marched, from those who suffered, those who went through extraordinary difficulties. We cannot forgot those who made it possible for us to get this far.”

Southfield Mayor Kenson Siver and State Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, were among the government officials who joined the march to pay tribute to King.

“I’m glad to see such a tremendous crowd here to today,” Siver said. “We walk in peace and brotherhood. This is our 32nd year and we will keep walking until we have justice everywhere in America.”

Moss said MLK Day is “such an important day” and was glad to join all of those marching Monday.

“As the years go forward, we’re going to have to take it day by day to fight against bigotry and racism and prejudice that still exists in this country,” he said. “We’re going to have to push back with a message of love that I know exists here in Southfield.”

At the Southfield Pavilion, the MLK program was to include remarks from Mayor Kenson Siver, MLK Task Force founder Barbara Talley and current MLK Task Force President Patricia Haynie.

The Rev. Dr. Carlyle Stewart, pastor of the Empowerment Church in Southfield, is to deliver the keynote address, “Embracing the Legacy of Dr. King: Achieving Peace through Understanding.”

Also scheduled are presentation of colors by the Buffalo Soldiers, Tuskegee Airmen and Southfield Police & Fire Departments, a number of musical performances, awards presentations, a prayer for peace by Rabbi Yonatan Dahlen of Congregation Shaarey Zedek and the ringing of the Liberty Bell.

Located along Eight Mile between Inkster and Greenfield roads in Oakland County, the city of Southfield covers more than 26 square miles and has more than 78,000 residents.

The city boasts being the first city in Michigan to hold a walk or march in King’s honor. Southfield’s first MLK walk was held Jan. 20, 1986, marking the first national observance of the civil right’s activist’s birthday, which is Jan. 15.

Organizers said the walk continues to grow in size and scope each year, with year-long educational and community outreach activities.

Established in 1985, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Task Force is an all-volunteer, grassroots civic nonprofit that works to communicate to others in the local community the importance of celebrating the National Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday.

Thaddeus Littleton, 44, also of Southfield, said it was his first time joining in on the peace walk. He brought his 15-year-old son, Machaiah Robinson, with him.

“I’m glad to be here to show my son that we can all come together to be united as one and show the importance of what Martin Luther King stands for,” he said. “Especially at this time, in 2017. It’s a beautiful thing to have.”

cramirez@detroitnews.com

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