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'Celebrating the Dream'
Statesboro residents affirm King's message
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Bill Shipman, a deacon with Little Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklet, waves to onlookers while marching down South Main Street during Monday's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

   If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been among the light crowd of people watching Statesboro’s parade in his honor Monday, he would have seen smiling children waving flags, chanting “God Bless America.”
    He would have seen people of different races, backgrounds, and from all walks of life carrying placards, riding in decorated cars and marching together.
    King’s message of “I Have a Dream” was evident Monday as dignitaries, beauty queens, businessmen, churches, fraternities and youth groups made their way through the streets of Statesboro.
    Bulloch County Commissioners perched atop a float that is a replica of the Bulloch County Courthouse waved and smiled at spectators. Statesboro Mayor Joe Brannen, City Manager Frank Parker and City Councilman Gary Lewis were in a silver vehicle,
waving to citizens as well.
    Hosted by the Bulloch County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the parade was led by  units and color guards from the Statesboro Police Department, Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office and grand marshal Rev. Julius Abraham.
    This year's theme was “Affirming America’s Promise,” in honor of the military and their contributions, as well as those of the late Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and the Rev. Patrick Jones, said Pearl Brown, Bulloch County NAACP president.
     Members of the NAACP chapter, as well as the Georgia Southern University NAACP chapter, stepped to lively music as some carried a banner proclaiming the group’s 100 years in existence.
    Members of the Southeast Bulloch High School band played as they rode on a trailer pulled behind a truck, wearing shirts patterned in the school colors of blue and gold.
    In addition to the parade theme, many church vans, cars, and participants carrying signs sent the message of King’s “Celebrating the Dream,” “Free at Last” and some sang the folk hymn “We Shall Overcome” as they marched.
    The Langston Chapel Middle School “Stepping Innovators” brought passion and excitement to the streets as they passed, and several members of various churches handed out tracts, flyers and offered invitations to services and events.
    The parade also had its share of beauty queens, including “Miss Dream” in a silver car decorated with a crown and long eyelashes on its headlights.
    Motorcycles, classic cars and children riding in fun trains pulled by golf carts completed the parade atmosphere.
    Of course, no parade is complete without the requisite politicians. Georgians for Obama had an entry in the parade, and members of the Bulloch County Democratic party greeted spectators. Keith Howard, who plans to run against Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson for the seat, rode in a black Oldsmobile ‘98 convertible, and Senator Jack Hill made an appearance as well.
    After the parade, a Community Service Program was held at Tabernacle Baptist Church on Bulloch Street.
    Reverend Francys Johnson spoke during the program and honored Abraham for his community involvement.
    Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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