MLK Jr. Day parade honors icon
by Wes Mayer
Rain delayed Newnan's 27th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, but within only a few hours of the scheduled noon start Saturday, the sun shone through the clouds and the bands marched through downtown Newnan.
The celebration was organized by the local masonic section, Newnan Chapter 483, Order of the Eastern Star, and this year, the theme was 'Illuminating the Star through Rededication, Reclamation and Education for the Growth of the Future.'
OES Sister Karen Britt served as Chairperson of the event, and Past Worthy Matron Sister Margaret Thompson served as Co-Chairperson. Councilwoman Cynthia Jenkins, the first African-American Newnan City Council member, was honored as grand marshal of the parade.
Originally scheduled to begin at noon, the parade was delayed by two hours because of heavy morning showers.
Showers continued into the afternoon and the parade was rescheduled for 2 p.m., beginning just as the storms passed and the sun returned.
Around 2:10 p.m., the parade left Newnan High School, travelled north on LaGrange Street through the Court Square downtown, continued on Jackson Street and turned onto Wesley Street, ending in Willie Lynch Park.
Parade participants included members of local churches such as Smith Chapel United Methodist Church, Zion Hill Baptist Church and White Oak Grove Baptist Church, as well as veterans with the Terry Allen Jr. Buffalo Soldiers Post 910, The Mon Amies Social and Civic Club, Girl Scout Troop 505, the Coweta County Democratic Party, the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and more.
Smith Chapel Methodist, Zion Hill Baptist Church and the Terry Allen Jr. Buffalo Soldiers each built floats for the parade, and the floats were judged by members of the Order of the Eastern Star.
Smith Chapel was awarded first place for its float, which was covered in photos and facts about Dr. King and held some of the church's youth and adult members, including Reverend Pastor Yolanda Colton. Zion Hill came in second place with its float, which told the story of Africans first coming to America as slaves and how Dr. King changed everything.
On Friday, sisters with the Order of the Eastern Star held a memorial service at Zion Hill Baptist Church on Pinson Street. The program featured scripture and prayer, singing and praise dancing, remarks about the occasion and ovations to the life and accomplishments of Dr. King. Special performances included a solo of 'Mary Did you Know' by Evans Middle School student Zoie S. Perry, and praise dances by Mondriques Jordan Jr. and Malik Bush, members of the Fresh Anointed Mime Dancers with Greater Mt. Calvary Baptist Church.
The Chapter also honored Jenkins, as well as past worthy matron Sarah C. Williams, who was responsible for the first Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade 27 years ago. Williams told the story of how the annual parade celebration began. She said the first parade in Georgia occurred in Atlanta, but the second began in Newnan.
'Thank you for continuing this celebration,' Williams said at Friday's service. 'Martin Luther King and many others died for what we are celebrating here tonight and in the parade [tomorrow].'
The service closed with remarks from the worth matrons and patrons of the Chapter, challenging everyone to follow the teachings of Dr. King and to celebrate the holiday like equal Americans.
'Dr. King challenged America to be Americans,' said Sean Britt, district worthy patron. 'Dr. King expanded the definition of what a man is. When did we forget how to just be an American?'
'It's 2014,' Britt said. 'We have to come together as a community. There is a social segregation that still occurs, and that is unacceptable.'