People join together to honor King


Thousands marched Monday from Gainesville's City Hall to the Martin Luther King Multi-Purpose Center on Waldo Road to commemorate the slain civil rights leader.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 18, 2005 at 12:22 a.m.
Speeches, a commemorative march, gospel songs.
Those activities have become Gainesville's traditional way of celebrating the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr.
Among the hundreds who participated in Monday's program at City Hall, or marched to the Martin Luther King Multi-Purpose Center on Waldo Road, or listened to the gospel songs during the extravaganza at the center, were at least a few who wanted to carry the spirit of the celebration to other communities.
"I'm from Fort Lauderdale where this is just a day off. There are no activities. But this is something I would like to take back with me," said Richard Belizaire, president of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, as he gestured to the crowd around him listening to speakers at the ceremony outside City Hall.
Belizaire, who is working on his undergraduate degree in special education at the University of Florida, said he especially wants to find a way to share the kind of day the national holiday is in Gainesville with the youngsters he works with in summer camps at the Fort Lauderdale Housing Authority.
"Most kids know three things about Dr. King; his 'I Have a Dream Speech;' that he was part of the Montgomery bus boycott; and that he was killed," Belizaire said. "Events like we have in Gainesville could get them interested in learning so much more."
Even local youngsters you have attended the annual events for several years said they continue to learn more each year.
"I have been coming every year for about six years now, and I understand more now because I guess I wasn't paying that much attention when I was younger," said Howard Bishop Middle School eighth-grader Lakeisha Hawkins. "What I understand now is that he (King) had a vision that everyone should be equal and that's why we have this day."
Many youngsters were members of a church, or fraternal organization, or other groups.
Ruth Morris said her sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, brings its affiliated youth to reinforce the message that they need to, "Proceed to the best of your ability and work to your potential." Morris said the event is a chance to talk with children about slavery, segregation and civil rights issues King spoke out about.
Trenice Jones, a 14-year-old student at P. K. Yonge Developmental Lab School said she views the annual march from downtown to the center as important because, "It helps us remember that Martin Luther King gave others an important key - the courage to stand up and say segregation wasn't right."
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or voylesk@gvillesun.com.

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