26th Annual MLK Jr. Parade: Newnan honors civil rights icon's legacy
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
Essay contest participants were the stars of Friday’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial program at Zion Hill Baptist Church, and two of the three winners led Saturday’s parade as grand marshals.
It was a spring-like day for the 26th annual parade and celebration, hosted by Newnan Chapter 483, Order of the Eastern Star.
Members of Chapter 483 and local dignitaries watched the parade from the reviewing stand, as each float or group was announced.
O.P. Evans Middle School student Maleah Callaway and Newnan High student Brittney Prather read their winning essays at Friday’s program, and they also rode on convertibles at the front of the parade.
(To view photos from the parade, please visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture/ and click on Events for the Photo Gallery.)
Elementary school winner Alice Naughton was not able to attend because of illness, but her teacher accepted a trophy on her behalf, and Janice Walton of Chapter 483 read Naughton’s essay.
Many of the 23 students who participated in the essay contest were on hand at Friday’s event.
“Thank you so much for taking part in this essay contest,” Janice Walton told the students. “It’s just an honor. We really thank you so much. I really cannot find the words to express to you how much we appreciate you doing this.”
As those who were alive to see Dr. King and the impacts of his work pass on, “it is imperative we continue to refresh the minds of our youth and let them know to continue to research and know what our history is about,” Walton said.
Three judges were tasked with picking the winners in the elementary, middle, and high school categories.
“Our task was a difficult one, because most of the papers were really good,” said judge Linda Stephens. “They really got it.”
Students were asked to write about what King’s “I Have a Dream” speech means to them.
“I am free to go out and take every opportunity to be all that I dream to be. I will dream dreams. I will change lives. I will go beyond normal acceptance,” Callaway said. King “wanted to rid the world of separation and segregation,” she said, and the younger generation has to carry on the flame. “My generation must step up to the plate and keep this generation moving forward to a land of true freedom.”
“I take on this responsibility with pride, knowing that I will one day hand the torch to my children,” she said. And they will continue that legacy, with “the torch raised high to light the way for generations to come.”
Most of King’s words were about peace, said Prather. “For America to become a great nation, racism must be eliminated,” she said. King’s dream is being fulfilled.
“Because of his dreams, we as Negros, blacks, African Americans, minorities, children of God, or however you want to be defined, have the same opportunities as any other race. We can take our place anywhere in society,” she said.
“We have gone from the plantation house kitchen to the White House.”
Naughton, a fifth-grader at The Heritage School, said in her essay that though Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, it wasn’t until Martin Luther King Jr. that black Americans “finally got their rights.”
“Today, African-Americans are living their freedom,” Naughton wrote.
“To me his speech meant no more hatred and more fairness. Now I am able to mingle freely with my friends and not have to worry about something as silly as the color of skin.
“Today it doesn’t matter what color we are, we don’t have to give up our seats on buses or drink from separate water fountains. Children today have grown up with most African-American and white people not caring about their race,” she wrote.
“Everybody owes [King] for what he did,” Naughton wrote. “Martin Luther King had the courage to make a difference.”
“I am delighted to stand here and extend words of thanks,” said Worthy Matron Margaret Blandenburg.
Sean Britt, district worthy patron, was the last speaker of the evening.
He spoke on an issue that has been at the forefront of discussions recently.
“We are here tonight to honor the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But let us remember that Dr. King died not by an assassin’s knife or an assassin’s poison, but by an assassin’s bullet,” Britt said. And Abraham Lincoln “did not die by an assassin’s knife or poison but also by an assassin’s bullet. At this particular point in time... we need to realize that there are certain things going on in our society when it comes to firearms and gun control... we need to say ‘guns out of control,’ because we’ve passed from the ridiculous into the insane,” Britt said. The current situation is not what the Founding Fathers intended.
People need to send letters and emails to elected officials and let them know how they feel about gun issues, Britt said.
“It is easier to get a gun license than to get a license to drive an automobile,” Britt added. “And it is more than obvious” that guns aren’t always in the hands of people that they should be in.
“We are tired of this. We need to have more strict gun control in our nation,” Britt said.
“Enough is enough.”