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With Obama's upcoming inauguration, MLK Day marches have special meaning

POSTED: January 16, 2009 12:23 a.m.

Local groups that hold annual events in honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday will do so this year with a renewed zeal.

The King holiday will be celebrated Monday, a day before the inauguration of the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama.

Bishop Ernest Burns of Shady Grove Baptist Church in Cornelia said that in many ways, King’s vision is becoming a reality.

"The march takes on a big significance this year," Burns said.

"This year we’ve overcome some things. This is the reality of a dream."

King was born Jan. 15, 1929 in Atlanta. The civil rights icon was cut down by an assassin on April 4, 1968, in Memphis. The celebration of his birthday became a national holiday in 1983.

Shady Grove Baptist Church will hold its 23rd annual peace march at 2 p.m. Sunday to honor King’s life and legacy. The one-mile march will begin at the Big Red Apple in downtown Cornelia and end at Shady Grove Baptist Church.

At the church will be speakers, a dance performance and refreshments.

"It’s a peace march; it’s a unity march," Burns said. "It’s open to anyone and everyone."

The Newtown Florist Club will hold its annual march Monday.

"This is our 39th year," said Faye Bush, club president.

The march begins at 1 p.m. at Sun Trust Bank at the corner of E.E. Butler and Washington Street.

"We march to the Butler Building, and at 3 p.m. we have our program," Bush said.

This year’s guest speaker is Rev. Stephen Samuel from St. John Baptist Church. The step team from Gainesville High School will perform.

Though she will be there in spirit, Bush will spend the day in Washington, D.C., where she is headed to attend Obama’s inauguration.

"This will be the first time I’m missing it," Bush said of the 39 years the Newton Florist Club has organized the event.

Bush said that despite the excitement surrounding Obama’s inauguration, the march still will be focused on King.

"We definitely don’t want to take anything away from Dr. King because he paved the way for these things to happen," Bush said.

Bush hopes that people will be energized to celebrate King’s legacy this weekend.

"We’re expecting a large crowd. We always have a big turnout for the King Day program, and I would think it would be larger this time," Bush said. "We hope that people will come out and bring banners and march with us. Everybody’s welcome."

In honor of King’s legacy, Georgia Power employees will use Monday, a company holiday, for volunteer service and community enhancement.

Employees in Gainesville will help with cutting a trail at the Elachee Nature Science Center, an environmental education center that promotes environmental literacy for Georgians.



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