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Gwinnettians march on MLK Day

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Members of the community and city officials march from Snellville City Hall to New Jerusalem Baptist Church to honor Martin Luther King Day on Monday. About 75 people participated in the first ever march.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Members of the community and city officials march from Snellville City Hall to New Jerusalem Baptist Church to honor Martin Luther King Day on Monday. About 75 people participated in the first ever march.

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Photo: David McGregor Hundreds of people gather in downtown Lawrenceville in honor of Martin Luther King on Monday morning.

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Photo: David McGregor LaKenya Hunt and her son Kamal look around during a ceremony celebrating Martin Luther King on Monday morning in Lawrenceville.

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Photo: David McGregor Charles Bracks holds a drawing of Martin Luther King in downtown Lawrenceville shortly before the beginning of a parade on Monday morning.

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LAWRENCEVILLE -- Clamentine Melvin wants her daughter to dream big,

So she made sure to teach her and fellow Girl Scouts about America's most famous dreamer: Martin Luther King Jr.

"I want her to get involved in the community despite her mild disability," Melvin said of 5-year-old Bre, who has cerebral palsy but brought her walker to participate in Monday's King Day march in Lawrenceville. "I want her to know that she can do what she wants to.

"Martin Luther King had a dream, and her dream is to walk on her own," Melvin said.

A couple of hours later and about 15 miles away, another person wouldn't let a health ailment keep him from joining in the celebration.

Buster Porter, 61, used a walker as he trailed behind about 75 people participating in Snellville's first MLK march Monday.

"I'm going to go as far as I can," Porter said, remembering the inspirational teachings of King in the 1950s and 60s as he led the Civil Rights Movement. "I like marching; he did it for us."

Across Gwinnett, King's message spoken more than 40 years ago served as an inspiration Monday.

Elijah Collins, pastor of New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Snellville, said he organized the march from City Hall to his church because of the strides the city has taken in recent years acknowledging the federal holiday.

He rewrote the words to the spiritual "We Shall Overcome" to reflect the gains in equality over the years.

"I believe that a lot of what Dr. King did impacted the political structure of this country," he said, "We want to show the love, show the spirit."

Warren Auld, a white man, brought his adopted daughter Mary Grace, who is black, to the parade.

"The fact of the matter is, she and I would not be a family without (King)," Auld said. His wife read a book about King with the 7-year-old that morning, but the child doesn't yet understand the enormity of the change that occurred due to the Civil Rights Movement, he said.

"We've talked about it, but it's a little too difficult to understand," he said. "That's why the parade itself fulfills a purpose. It's a concrete example to tie together the stories."

In Lawrenceville, about 500 people joined in the celebration, which was punctuated by the sound of a high school marching band.

State Rep. Pedro Marin, D-Duluth, who was named grand marshal, said Latinos now fighting racism should learn from King and other leaders.

"We must study history and build on the success of our African-American brothers and sisters," Marin said, adding that the concerns of the two communities are the same, including health care, education, racial profiling and gang violence. "Now is the time to build bridges that lead to a more perfect union."

The theme of "Unity in Diversity" extended to a group of students marching for gay rights.

"(King) talked about the content of your character, not the color of your skin. He spoke about unity. He spoke about peace," said Penny Poole, one of the United Ebony Society organizers.