While every celebration of the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is special, this year’s parade has an added touch.
Dr. Francys Johnson, a Statesboro civil rights attorney and pastor — and the first president of the Georgia State Conference NAACP from Bulloch County — will be the grand marshal.
“We are proud of him being elected,” said Pearl Brown, the president of the Bulloch County Branch NAACP. “I think (Johnson’s state presidency) is doing more than increasing enthusiasm (in the NAACP). Our membership has really gone up, but in addition, more people are getting involved.”
Brown hopes that translates into a good crowd lining the streets of downtown Statesboro for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade, which is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Monday.
The parade will follow the same route as last year. It will start on East Olliff Street, turn left onto North Main Street, right onto West Main Street, right onto Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and end at Luetta Moore Park.
Already, Brown said, more individuals and organizations have expressed interest in participating in the parade.
Immediately following, at 3 p.m., the Community Service Program will be held at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 210 Bulloch St.
The keynote speaker will be Patrice Buckner Jackson, the dean of students at Georgia Southern University.
Jackson received a Bachelor of Science in sociology from the College of Charleston and a Master of Arts in counseling from Webster University in San Antonio.
At Georgia Southern, Jackson created V.A.L.U.E.S., which stands for Voices, Accountability, Lasting traditions, Unity, Ethical behavior and Scholarship. It is a vehicle for teaching students social responsibility, civility and responsible decision-making.
Brown said celebrating King’s memory “is overwhelming to me.”
“As a young person, I started hearing about Dr. King,” she said. “I know he believed in everybody working together. At my age, I remember when a lot of things were very divisive in this country. He believed in peace, righteousness and unity, equality. We just want equal treatment in jobs, education, criminal justice. That’s what he was a drum major for, not ‘I want to be above you.’ … I don’t think his dream has been fully realized yet, but we are working on it.”
Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.