"It blew my mind to be honest. Like, it just blew my mind," Sumter resident Tisha Daniels shared. "I just didn’t know that the community could just come out and support in the way that it came out. I just didn’t know that the community could come out to do this."
Cindy Brooks-Parks added, "Sumter’s a small town but to see everybody out today and everybody walking, the way the police supported us, blocking off the streets and stuff. It’s great!"
Daniel and Brooks-Parks are two of hundreds who gathered for the 23rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Walk.
"It warmed my heart to see all of the community just come out and just support the way that they did and just come together and just make the dream come true," Daniels said.
"Seeing familiar faces, familiar organizations out here, it’s just like a family reunion," Newton-Tabon smiled.
For residents across Sumter, MLK Day has its own unique meaning.
"Just being able to be who we are unapologetically no matter where you are and just being able to be you," Zuri Allen said. "And people accept you for you."
"That I share the dream with every young person that I see," Maria Newton-Tabon continued. "That they too can be a part of their community to make a difference. A positive difference."
For Tisha Daniels, it's "just unity and just celebrating [King's] dream."
And for Cindy Brooks-Parks, it means "freedom and justice."
"I think collaboration and working together is like the ultimate way to get something done," USC Sumter's Alethia Hummel shared. "This is such an important day, an important event for our community, so it’s so good to have buy in from all our higher education entities in town."
The schools picked this year’s theme: The Fierce Urgency of Now.
"We feel like there’s still so much to do, and the time to do it is now," Hummel explained. "Let's not kick it down the road. Let’s do it now. Let’s get it together and work together to make things better for everyone."
Lance Newman, the event’s grand marshal, said this message cannot come at a better time.
"We’ve been through a lot over the last three to five years and it’s time to get back to loving each other," Newman said. "We need to start some of these actions that Dr. King talked about many years ago. We need to apply them today."
The best way to do that, he explains, is by "being kind and being nice. Simple as that."
"For the Sumter community to get together and for the challenge to go out, to start being nice in Sumter, hopefully it can spread across the rest of South Carolina," Newman continued. "Being kind and being nice is an awesome thing. And imagine if we do that more often. I think we’ll have a better society."