Woman eagerly takes reins of King Day celebration

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Lois Solomon remembers sitting in a Cleveland church and listening as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about equality and becoming involved to create change.

This year, Solomon is putting those words into action, organizing the Gwinnett United Ebony Society's celebration of what would have been King's 81st birthday.

The retired social worker, who joined the NAACP and Urban League years ago in Ohio, said she still sees shades of "subtle racism," like when a server at the grocery store looked for a smaller portion to give to her for a taste.

"It's all about equality, just basic fairness," Solomon said, adding that King's messages inspired her as a youngster. "It's always about unity, standing up. That just resonates with me."

With her 7-year-old grandson beginning to hear the stories of the Civil Rights Movement, Solomon said she couldn't see the end to a great tradition of marching in Lawrenceville's Square.

For more than a decade, Ebony Society founder Robbie Susan Moore coordinated the festivities, but she died in 2008, and a new organizer was needed.

"This is something we cannot let go; we cannot let it die," Solomon said, adding that she has been fine-tuning the festivities since late November.

This year, three bands will be a part of the march, which kicks off at 10 a.m. Monday at the historic courthouse and ends at Central Gwinnett High School. Step teams and scout troops will also participate, with school board member Mary Kay Murphy acting as grand marshal.

At noon, a program will begin at the high school's gym, featuring Sen. Donzella James as guest speaker and CNN's Chris Singleton as emcee. This year, Solomon limited the essays read by local children to 10 to speed up the festivities.