Posted: Monday, January 20th 2014 at 1:51pm
Gainesville's 44th MLK Day parade: 'Never forget!'
By Marc Eggers Staff
GAINESVILLE – An estimated 200 people stood silent in the parking lot of Sun Trust Bank on E.E. Butler Parkway Monday, just before the 1PM start time, as ministers from seven different churches prayed aloud, asking for God's blessing.
Gainesville's 44th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade was about to begin.
The police escort provided by the City of Gainesville began to stop traffic and the marchers followed closely behind, singing as they walked.
The celebrants' destination of the Fair Street School, about a mile away, would cover nearly a mile-and-a-half of city streets as the parade route included a lap around Gainesville's historic square.
Some of the businesses and all of the government buildings along the designated route would be closed in honor of the federal holiday signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, fifteen years after the assassination of the holiday's namesake.
Even the spell of blustery weather that Gainesville had been experiencing, and would see return on Tuesday, seemed to also take the day off as skies were clear and the weatherman said 60-degrees was probable.
The theme of this year’s parade paraphrased the final lines of Robert Frost’s poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening": Promises to Keep and Miles to Go before We Sleep.
Dr. King would have turned 85 this year. Two generations of Americans have been born since his death, and with that passing of time memories and messages can blur.
The Reverend Charles Dickey, Pastor of St. John’s AME in Crawfordsville, summarized the purpose of the parade when he said in his prayer, "The dreamer is dead, but the dream lives on. We must never forget where we came from."
Hosted by the Newtown Florist Club, club president Faye Bush said, "I think that we need to pass it (King’s message) on to the next generation, and make sure that they catch it."
Reverend Rose Johnson, member of the Newtown Florist Club and recent Gainesville mayoral candidate, added, "I think it is very hard to…transfer to this generation the pain, the sacrifice, the struggles, the challenges, the heartaches of an era gone by. That’s why this program is so vitally important to continue to do."
At the parade’s terminus, Fair Street School, Dr. Bill Coates, Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church on Green Street, was the scheduled featured speaker.
Coates, who is white and was raised during segregation in the south (South Carolina) has stated publicly that the message and teachings of Dr. King had a profound effect on his view of civil rights and the struggles faced by minority groups.
Many of the marchers were too young to remember Dr. King first hand, born after his April 4, 1968, murder in Memphis, but they are the reason, Faye Bush explained, the Newtown Florist Club hosts the annual remembrance.
Coordinator for this year’s event was Dr. Elfreda Lakey, who also serves as the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Operations for the Gainesville City School System.
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