Martin Luther King Jr. Day march
What: "Change We Must Believe, Change We Must Achieve," organized by the Newtown Florist Club
When: Monday; assemble at noon, march at 1:30 p.m., presentation at 3 p.m.
Where: Assemble at SunTrust Bank, 121 E.E. Butler Parkway, Gainesville; presentation at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School, 695 Fair St., Gainesville
More info: Newtown Florist Club, 770-718-1343
Go online to a related story, Schools plan King holiday observance
On Monday, community members will gather in downtown Gainesville, and as others have for 40 years, march in memory of Martin Luther King Jr.
This year will mark the 41st march and rally held by the Newtown Florist Club. In the past, as many as 500 people have attended, said André Cheek, florist club board member.
"It's in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King and what he stood for," she said. "And it's a way that the community can come together and remember and reflect on all of the hard work that he put into that civil rights movement."
This year's event, called "Change We Must Believe, Change We Must Achieve," will include a march from the SunTrust Bank parking lot downtown to Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School.
Participants for the march will assemble at noon Monday, with a small presentation starting at 1 p.m. and the one-mile march following at 1:30 p.m. A program will end the event at 3 p.m. at the Fair Street gymnasium.
The presentation will include a panel discussion between Ashley Bell, Hall County commissioner; Merrianne Dyer, Gainesville City Schools superintendent; Jerry Gonzalez, Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials executive director; Wyc Orr, a Gainesville attorney and former Democratic state representative, and Myrtle Figueras, Gainesville City Council member.
The keynote speaker for the address will be Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Dyer said each of the panelists have been asked to discuss how King's work impacted each of their respective fields.
"It's a day that we can look back at the work of Dr. King and see where we are now and reflect back on how much progress we've made and what new challenges have come forth," she said.
Dyer has participated in the event in the past. She said one of the most memorable marches was nine or 10 years ago when Gainesville's Hispanic population first joined in the event.
"It became much more diverse instead of just black and white," she said.
She said events like this, where Gainesville's diversity unifies rather than divides, are essential to a strong community.
"It's even more important now when times are tough and there are going to be issues that are going to become contentious like immigration issues, its even more important for us to remember that we're a people and we're all contributing," she said.
The Newtown Florist Club celebrated its 60th anniversary last year. In its infancy, the group donated wreaths for funerals but it has grown to be a strong advocate for social justice in Gainesville.
Cheek, who has been attending the march since she was a child, said all are invited to attend. She said this peaceful march is the perfect way to honor King's peaceful approach to social justice.
"People think, ‘Oh, it's so cold and I'm going to be freezing,'" she said. "But by the time you've started marching you get half way around downtown Gainesville you're shedding clothes because you're singing and holding hands."
Another Martin Luther King event, the 26th annual Peace Walk, will take place Sunday in Cornelia. Participants are meeting at 2 p.m. at the Big Red Apple monument downtown and walking to Shady Grove Baptist Church. A program at the church will follow at 3 p.m.