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Weekend of events precede annual MLK Day march
Art, essay contest aim to get youth more involved
The Newtown Florist Club’s Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration March makes its way up Old Athens Highway in January 2007. - photo by Robin Michener Nathan


Newtown Florist Club Executive Director Faye Bush discusses the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Forty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was preparing to lead a sanitation workers’ strike and was assassinated on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tenn.

And 38 years ago, the Newtown Florist Club first rallied Newtown residents to march through the streets of Gainesville to honor Dr. King’s legacy of nonviolence and equality.

Faye Bush, executive director of the Newtown Florist Club, has been among that marching crowd of about 500 people each year since 1970, and said King’s legacy is for everyone — not just the black community.

"I hope more people of all colors will join us this year for the march and the ceremony at 3 o’clock," Bush said. "Dr. King said we should come together as one ... and we’ve been (marching) for 38 years, trying to do that."

The 38th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration March will begin at 1 p.m. Jan. 21, on the corner of E.E. Butler Parkway and Washington Street.

The march will culminate at 3 p.m. at the Butler Recreation Center with a speech given by attorney John Clark of Elberton.

The Newtown Florist Club is making a concerted effort to involve youth in this year’s "Kick Off" King Day Celebration and is hosting a
father-son basketball tournament and mother-daughter cheerleading contest on Saturday at the Hall County Boys & Girls Clubs at 1 Positive Place S.E. in Gainesville. The competitions begin at 1 p.m. and will last through the afternoon. A Newtown neighborhood cleanup is also scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday.

In partnership with Cargill Co. and the Boys & Girls Clubs, the Newtown Florist Club is hosting an art and essay contest. The contest will award multiple $200 prizes and a laptop computer as the grand prize.

The essay theme asks participants to expound on the notion of whether America has embraced Dr. King’s legacy of nonviolence.

Further, the florist club asks contestants to consider how they, as a young person, can transform the world through nonviolence. Children ages 6 to 9 are invited to enter artwork, while contestants between the ages of 10 and 13 are asked to submit a 1,500-word essay or poem. Contestants between the ages of 10 and 18 are asked to submit a 2,000-word essay or poem to be eligible for the computer prize.

All entries must be submitted to the Newtown Florist Club or the Hall County Boys & Girls Clubs by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Bush said she believes educating young people on the life and legacy of King is crucial for the young generation to understand how far civil rights have come in the United States since the 1960s.

"If we don’t keep telling the story and keep marching, our young people won’t know the history," Bush said. "He went through some things so that we could enjoy the rights we have today. He was beaten, he was thrown in jail ... and then was killed because he was fighting for what was right for the people."

According to the Nobel Prize Web site, in 1964 at age 35, King was the youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Between 1957 and 1968, King traveled more than 6 million miles and spoke more than 2,500 times to promote justice and equality between the races. He was arrested upwards of 20 times and assaulted at least four times.

"He gave his life up for us, to tell you the truth," Bush said. "And you can’t forget that."