MLK Day celebration: 'The fight isn't over'
Hundreds brave cold to remember leader and his message of unity

LAWRENCEVILLE - Pamela Zachery snuggled close to her 2-year-old son at the start of Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in Lawrenceville.

But she knew that the temperatures she braved Monday were a small burden in comparison to the dogs and fire hoses that met King and other civil rights leaders 40 years ago.

"It's good and cold," Zachery said before lining up for a parade down Crogan Street, knowing that the temperature would

provide a lesson for son Omar and daughter Amaria, 5. "They hear about it, but we want to give them of glimpse of what (the struggle) was."

Nearly 500 people, led by the Meadowcreek High School marching band, walked in the annual United Ebony Society event. And even more crowded into Central Gwinnett High School to celebrate King's birthday.

While politicians marked the day in Atlanta, where the civil rights leader was born and served as a preacher until his death in 1968, the political message in Lawrenceville on Monday was one of unity.

There, politicians and residents from Lawrenceville, Snellville, Norcross, Grayson and Lilburn struggled against the wind to light a candle, commemorating the first year the cities closed government offices for the holiday.

While 9-year-old Pilar O'Neal, wearing a sandwich board around her neck, marveled in participating in her first parade, her mother turned her attention back to the message of the day.

"We're here to celebrate a man who did something not just for black people but for all mankind," Linda Anderson told Pilar. "We need people to remember the fight isn't over. Life is about loving all people, no matter your color."

James Mack said the ceremonies gave him renewed hope.

"I'm concerned about what's going on, and I want to learn something every day," Mack said. "It's an inspiration to me. ... It gives me courage and hope to move forward."

That kind of inspiration is exactly what Nicole Steele hoped to instill in about 40 girls from the Diamond in the Rough mentoring program, who made signs for the parade over the weekend.

"We are trying to teach this younger generation, first, to appreciate Martin Luther King and the sacrifices he made, but it's important for them to have a dream of their own," Steele said.