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Marchers brave cold for MLK’s legacy of peace

Cornelia event is in its 22nd year

POSTED: February 1, 2008 5:04 a.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Dozens of marchers make their way up Martin Luther King Drive on Sunday afternoon in Cornelia on their way to Shady Grove Baptist Church during the 22nd annual Peace March in honor of the late Rev. Martin Luther King.

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The cold didn’t stop some 50 people from gathering Sunday afternoon at the Big Red Apple in downtown Cornelia to honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a one-mile peace march to Shady Grove Baptist Church.

This marks the 22nd year of the annual Peace March, where participants amble hand-in-hand down Cornelia streets singing hymns. The march culminated at the church on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, with a performance by the Shady Grove dance ensemble and a speech by Lt. Col. Alfonzo Jackson of the Atlanta Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen.

The group aims to preserve the legacy of the first generation of African-American military aviators of World War II.

Jackson spoke to an audience of about 100 people on his experience overcoming racial prejudice during the civil rights movement and of King’s dream of racial harmony.

Shady Grove Baptist Bishop Ernest Burns led the informal worship service at the church’s Life Center.

"We’ve come to let the world know that we can live in peace, because we’re doing it right here, together today. If we can march for peace, we can live in peace," Burns said. "So we’ve come just to commemorate, and we should ... do this all the time ... to let the world know this is the way we feel, and this is the way we should live."

Betty Gilbert has participated in the
Cornelia march each of its 22 years, and said she believes it is crucial not to let King’s vision of peace perish.

"We have not arrived yet to the destination he wanted us to reach," Gilbert said. "This day is us not forgetting the struggle. It’s a dangerous thing to forget."

Iris Arias, who has participated in the march since the 1980s, said it once was a grand affair with hundreds of walkers.

"We used to do it up big time," Arias said, adding that she feels many people are forgetting the legacy of peacemakers such as King and Indian nationalist leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, who inspired people to be compassionate and to know their neighbors. "We need to go back a few years to where everyone was marching for peace, and against war and violence."

Although some participants said recent Cornelia marches are a scaled-down version of previous marches, the message of peace still is reaching some of the young generation in Cornelia.

"He brought white and black together, and we respect him so much for that," said Sharmain Dooley, 15, who danced at the service following the march. "He brought all of us together so we could love each other and become one. His message was so peaceful, and he wished for us to be free, and we are, so his dream came alive."

Gainesville will hold its 38th annual Martin Luther King Jr. march this afternoon, beginning at 1 p.m. at the corner of E.E. Butler Parkway and Washington Street. The march will proceed to the Butler Center for a program at 3 p.m.



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