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Crowd honors King with march, hymns
'We're celebrating what he did for us'
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Participants in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day march make their way toward Gainesville Middle School for a celebration of the holiday. - photo by Tom Reed

More than 200 people took to the streets Monday afternoon in Gainesville to remember the dream and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Crowd members sang hymns at the top of their lungs as they marched from the Hall County Health Department on Athens Highway to Gainesville Middle School on Community Way.

Families poured out of houses to stand and wave as the marchers passed by. People lined the roadways holding their phones in the air to take photos. Many people decided to join the marchers as they walked past.

The 43rd annual Martin Luther King Celebration sponsored by The Newtown Florist Club took a different route this year.

Faye Bush, director of Newtown Florist Club, said everyone seemed pleased with the new route because it allowed the marchers to have more visibility to the rest of the community.

As the marchers walked down Jesse Jewell Parkway toward the school, waving hands shot out of passing car windows and horns beeped in support of the marchers.

Precious Reid, 12, of Gainesville, walked beside her Cross Plains Missionary Baptist Church youth group.

This was her second time participating in the march. She said she enjoys walking in memory of a man and the dream she’s heard so much about.

“From what I’ve heard he lead the people to come together,” Precious said. “We’re celebrating what he did for us.”

She said marching alongside some of the older people and hearing what they have to say helps her learn more about King and what he stood for.

Shea Stringer marched with the youth group. This was the first time she participated in the Gainesville celebration; she usually attends the event in Atlanta.

“I like this. To me it’s more child appropriate,” Stringer said. “A lot of people brought their kids and their church groups so that they can learn about the past and about how other people fought for them.”

While the event provided an opportunity to teach the younger generations about the history of the civil rights movement, it also helped to educate some adults.

Pia Williams grew up in Seattle, Wash. She said she never heard very much about the movement growing up. It wasn’t until college that she learned who King was and what he did.

She attended the march for the first time at the encouragement of her friend Portia Clark.

“I’d never seen we, as black people, walking down the street in support of Martin Luther King where I came from,” Williams said.

She said she wasn’t sure what to expect but was glad to see so many people come together to keep a tradition alive.

“This is an experience I’ve never experienced in my life,” Williams said. “It allows me to get in touch with my history, with me.”

A program celebrating the life and memory of King followed the march at Gainesville Middle School. The Rev. Eugene Green, former pastor of St. John Baptist Church in Gainesville and current pastor of Hall Hill Baptist Church in Pelion, S.C., served as the keynote speaker.

The theme for this year’s march was “From King to Obama: The Dream Must Live On.” Martin Luther King Jr. Day and President Barack Obama’s inauguration occurred on the same day.

Darrin Stephens of Gainesville said the timing of the two occasions was perfect.

“That shows how much we have progressed,” Stephens said. “All the changes and equality, you can see it. You do see the changes, especially from the election.”

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