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Day of dreams: March honors King's vision

LAWRENCEVILLE - Shirley Hodges first heard the words in the shadow of the Washington Monument.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1963.

When Hodges heard those words in the Lawrenceville Square on Monday in celebration of King's 78th birthday, she was just as moved.

"It was just as inspiring as it was the first time I heard it," Hodges said.

During the United Ebony Society's annual march and celebration, Hillard Whitehead re-enacted the speech.

After the crowd of 500 marched through town, Chairman Charles Bannister pointed out that King's marches often took the opposite route of Monday's.

They usually began at a school and ended at the county courthouse instead of beginning at the courthouse and ending at Central Gwinnett High School.

Because of King's work, the assemblage had few grievances to protest, and instead walked the streets of the county seat to commemorate the civil rights leader.

But they agreed King's dream is not yet a reality.

"There must be a rally cry," the Rev. Erven Kimble said.

For some of the youngsters, the message rang loud and clear.

"I want to do the same things Martin Luther King did," said 12-year-old Blake Hicks. The Loganville boy has ambitions of being the first black president. "I think the nation will be ready for one, and I think I can make the world a better place."

At the beginning of Monday's festivities, rain began to fall. But it didn't deter the people. Instead, umbrellas bopped to the beat of a gospel choir.

Clouds began to roll away as Whitehead finished the last words of King's most famous speech, words that the crowd exclaimed together: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."