SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — For 37 years, Springfield has held a march to reflect on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the ideals for which he stood.

First-time attendee but lifetime admirer Tony Walker says he’s lived in Springfield nearly his entire life, but today was the first time he marched.

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized the importance of it,” Walker said. “Now I’m really involved with it. So that’s why I’m here today and will continue to come.” 

Dr. Kyler Sherman-Wilkins, the first vice president of the Springfield NAACP said this march is a way to show how far minorities and representation have come but also acknowledge how far they have to go.

“We’re still dealing with the scourge of police violence,” said Sherman-Wilkins. “We’re dealing with voter suppression; a tax on public education. But despite all of that, we need to have an obligation to sensor love, so that’s going very much our theme for this year.” 

The theme for this year’s march is “strength in love.”

Quan Bilberry, another first-timer, said his excitement is through the roof and views the entire community as coming together as one big family.

“As long as we walk together and stay together — no matter what obstacles we come to — I guarantee you that we will overcome it,“ said Bilberry.

As marches take place across the entire country, the Springfield NAACP said the non-profit is focusing on addressing issues that affect people here in the Ozarks.

Walker said the journey is still not over.

“We have made a lot of progress but we still have a long ways to go,” Walker said.