Chapel Hill Holds MLK March

Among events across the nation celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was a rally and march held in Chapel Hill.

As the sun rose higher in the Carolina blue sky on Monday morning, hundreds came out to the post office on Franklin Street to take part in the march and rally to honor Dr. King and continue spreading his message.

Standing on the steps of the post office, Madrid Smith – a first-year student and psychology major at UNC – gave a speech about the obstacles that still stand in the way of a community battling racism.

“We’re seeing issues of race being brought up that aren’t new,” he says. “They’ve just been unresolved.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt was in attendance at the march. He says it is wonderful to see young people in the community getting involved.

“We all hope that there’s a generation in the future, who will wake up and not be burdened with issues of racism, sexism, [and] homophobia,” he says. “They’re going to have equal opportunity.

“For young people to realize that work needs to be maintained and continue to expand into the future, provides hope that generation will wake up and be provided those opportunities.”

Orange County Commissioner Mark Dorosin – who was also at the rally – says the event was rejuvenating.

“It was absolutely faith restoring,” he says. “As was said by the speaker, understanding the challenges that we face now: from institutionalized racism and discrimination, how we need to be aware of that, and engage that. It was inspiring.”

Those at the event made their way from the post office, down Franklin St. – chanting along the way – before assembling in First Baptist Church.

There was singing, dancing in the aisle, and prayer at the ceremony. Michelle Laws, Executive Director of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, also spoke at the event. Laws was happy to see the diverse crowd of those who are taking part in the day’s celebrations.

“There are those of us who come because this is the place where the Lord restores our strength,” he says. “And restores our joy. And strengthens our faith. After we have been battered on the battlefield for justice.”

Laws says the Moral Movement will not back down from the pressure they have put on lawmakers. She adds there is strength in numbers, as the movement spreads to new areas.

On the day celebrating the life, legacy, and message brought forward 50 years ago by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the overriding theme was that there remains more work to do.

Central West Group: Off-Road Bike Path A Priority For Estes

CHAPEL HILL- Residents involved in planning the future of the Estes Drive/ Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard area unanimously endorsed a plan on Tuesday to create an off-street bike path to help children get safely to school.

The proposed path could run parallel to Estes from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Caswell Road, allowing students at Phillips Middle and Estes Hills Elementary to bike or walk to school while avoiding vehicle traffic on one of Chapel Hill’s busiest roads.

Members of the Central West Steering Committee agreed the multi-use path would be the top priority for bike and pedestrian improvements to the area. They also called for bike lanes in the street, along with a sidewalk that runs the full length of Estes Drive.

Although committee members agreed turn lanes might be necessary in some places to ease congestion, the group rejected a plan to add a third lane all along Estes, saying that would widen the road too much.

Transportation Planning Manager David Bonk said the town has about $2.5 million in federal grant money available to bring bike and pedestrian facilities in the area in the next few years.

The group also discussed land use plans for the undeveloped parcels on Estes closest to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Currently, the Horace Williams Airport Hazard Zone prohibits those parcels from being developed, but committee members said once the airport closes, they’d like to see mixed use development with a focus on retail that serves the nearby residential communities.

Committee members stressed that whatever is built on the corner should complement the Carolina North campus eventually slated for the other side of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The group is still in the early stages of land use planning discussions, with a goal of crafting a small area plan for the town council to review by December.

The committee will continue its work next Wednesday, meeting at 6 o’clock at the Chapel Hill Public Library.