Justice march gains traction
LaGRANGE — A nearly 900-mile march aimed at raising awareness of social, economic and political issues will wrap up its Troup County leg Tuesday.
The NAACP-sponsored Journey For Justice, an 860-mile march from Selma, Ala., to Washington, D.C., will host its fourth and final teach-in event at the First United Methodist Church, 401 Broad Street, this evening at 7. Atlanta attorney Millard Farmer is slated to speak on legislative issues, according to Ernest Ward, Troup County NAACP president.
Each day, the marchers spent morning and afternoon walking 20-mile legs of the journey, which followed West Point Road to Vernon Street and downtown LaGrange, then Morgan Street, turning left toward Commerce Avenue. The marchers turned onto Commerce Avenue and followed it to Hogansville Road.
Statesboro resident Francys Johnson, statewide president of the NAACP, didn’t let the hot Georgia sun deter his journey. The middle-aged man with a booming voice sang and chanted as he purposefully walked down West Point Road on Saturday morning.
“We’re marching for our schools, we’re marching for the lives that have been lost in the battle of mass incarceration in the criminal-industrial complex, we’re marching for a sustainable economy that benefits all, not just a privilege few,” he said. “We’re marching so that politicians respect that the citizen is the highest role in this republic. So we’re marching to dramatize the conditions of the real people in the United States.”
Johnson, who joined the Journey for Justice at the state line in West Point, said he believes the Peach State is falling behind in the areas of income inequality and education, and in the long run, that will hurt everyone.
“We have an economy that favors some and not others. It’s uneven,” he said. “There’s Atlanta, and then there’s the rest of Georgia. We have an education system that continues to lag behind the rest of the country. … Our students are not prepared for the global opportunities that should be theirs.”
A 2014 study by the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey ranked Troup County as the ninth most economically unequal county in America — ahead of Baltimore and San Francisco and on par with second-world countries like Brazil.
According to Census data, more than one in five Troup residents – 22 percent – live at or below the Federal poverty line. The number balloons to 33 percent — one in three — when looking just at children. Of those children, more than a quarter — 27.4 percent — of Troup County School System students failed to graduate in four years in 2014, according to the Troup County School System.
The march will continue on it’s way to Atlanta after leaving LaGrange on Tuesday morning. The group will base itself in Atlanta for the next leg of the march from Tuesday to Friday. A statewide rally on education reform is schedule for Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Mount Ephraim Baptist Church, 1202 West Marietta St., Atlanta.
For more information on the Journey for Justice visit www.naacp.org or use the hashtag #JusticeSummer on Facebook or Twitter.
— Reporter Melanie Ruberti contributed to this report.