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Boro celebrates, honors Martin Luther King
Chilly day doesn't dampen enthusiasm of parade goers
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Georgia Southern University student Victoria Washington, right, joins her Delta Sigma Pi sorority sisters on Main Street for Monday's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff


The sights and sounds of Statesboro's Martin Luther King Day Parade 2008.

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            A parade followed by a community program commemorated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday, almost a week after his birthday but on the day set aside in his honor.

            Hands were shoved into pockets, hoods were pulled over heads and people hunched together against an icy breeze, but the streets of downtown Statesboro were lined with citizens eager to watch the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade.

            Led by a car driven by Statesboro Police Chief Stan York, followed by the Statesboro Police Department Color Guard and the Bulloch County Sheriff's Department Color Guard, the parade included numerous local officials waving from sleek vehicles, school bands, a ROTC troop and people handing out candy to children.

            Georgia Southern University's Black Student Alliance and NAACP Chapter marched with spirit and rhythm, chanting and singing, as did several fraternities and sororities.

            Signs on floats and vehicles reflected the parade theme: "Racial equality - from good to great."

            One sign displayed an image of Dr. Martin Luther King along with a quote: "There is no room in my heart for prejudice."

            People involved in the parade, regardless of age, smiled and waved at spectators.  One float had a sign reading "From the school house to the White House - Racial equality, moving from good to great." Another float encouraged people to get out and vote.

            People had different reasons for attending the parade, from honoring King to braving the chill because a child or grandchild was in the parade.

            Betty Jenkins was there to see the sights and honor King.

            "He was a great leader, not just for blacks, but Caucasians as well," she said. "He just did a lot of things, not only for our country, but all over the world."

            "His legacy is something we should always carry with us," said Debra Mincey.

            "I believe he was a very important man," said Jeffrey Beasley. "Important enough to have a parade for him."

            Jay Wyatt said she had always admired King's mission. "I have a lot of respect for Dr. King and his ideas," she said. "I think  that young people today don't understand what was in his heart."

            "He's been a great inspiration to me," said Kelvin Brunson as he waited for the parade to begin. "I would like to keep going strong for him - keep the dreams real."


@Subhead:MLK program draws crowd

@Bodycopy:    It was a packed house with standing room only at Tabernacle Baptist Church on Bulloch Street when citizens left the parade route and flocked to t he church to hear a  "MLK Community Service program" with Dr. Randy Gunter speaking.

            Gunter, vice president for student affairs at Savannah State University, and once held several administrative positions at Georgia Southern University. A scholarship in  his name was established in 1990 by former Upward bound participants, recognizing his work and his being an Upward Bound alumnus of Paine College in Augusta.

            Program organizers were forced to place extra chairs in the aisles as the church pew became overcrowded. People still walked in after the program began and stood in the foyer to hear Gunter speak.

            Carlos Brown Jr., NAACP district coordinator, spoke at the program's beginning and shared words of wisdom with the crowd.

            "I heard somewhere that all it takes for evil to prevail is for a good man to do nothing," he said. "We're moving from good to great and we can't do that y sitting around and doing nothing."

            Statesboro City Councilman and church member Gary Lewis welcomed visitors. " We are here today to remember and honor great things, a great man," he said.

            Bulloch County Board of Education Vice Chairman Dr. Charles Bonds introduced Gunter after a performance by the Miller Grove Church choir.

            "This entire movement we celebrate today is because God helped us," he said, encouraging young people to become more involved and "not forget what (King) did."

            Gunter spoke about progress since King's leadership and encouraged listeners to keep progressing.

            "We pause today to pay  tribute to and reflect upon and examine the life of Dr. Martin Luther King," he said. "I was pleased to see the volume of young people" at the parade.

            "May ideas pass through our minds," he said. "What has it  taken ... for our people to move from just being good? ... We've endured a lot. I, like many of you, saw and witnessed many of the acts our young people read about today."

            Gunter spoke of times when signs posted at water fountains designated them as "whites only" or "colored." "I saw my father being humiliated by a man perhaps younger than him .. but I have also seen this thing called social integration."

            He spoke of how things were different in other regions of the country, and of encountering challenges of racism when he returned to the South years later. He also spoke of changes he has seen since then.

            "Everybody can be great because everybody can serve," he said, quoting King. "You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love."

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