A march for the dream


More than 1,000 participated in the Martin Luther King Jr. march Monday afternoon from downtown Gainesville to the Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-Purpose Center located off Waldo Road.

AARON DAYE/The Gainesville Guardian
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 11:39 a.m.
More than 1,000 people gathered at the Downtown Community Plaza Monday to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida King Week 2006. The day's events were a culmination of an entire week of activities dedicated to celebrating King's impact on the nation.
The plaza was filled with color, from the sunny blue sky above to the groups that gathered at the National Holiday Kickoff program. Sororities and fraternities were emblazoned in red and white, black and gold and pink and green. There were youth groups in matching T-shirts, as well as others holding posters and signs imparting words of encouragement from Martin Luther King Jr. Participants were young and old.
Kendra Grimes, recipient of the 2006 Edna Hart Keeper of the Dream Award, was the keynote speaker for the event that served as the beginning of a day of events held in the slain civil rights leader's honor.
Grimes, 17, is an honor student at Eastside High School and was awarded a $2,500 scholarship by the MLK Commission.
"The dream Dr. King had is evident within myself, "Grimes said confidently, speaking on the commission's 2006 theme, "Empowerment Through Education."
"There is a world full of possibilities in which defeat is not an option. Education is important for all. It enhances the world around you. Education will empower me to change the world for the better. I'm always willing to go above and beyond in what I do. What I do today will lead me to be two steps ahead in the future, "Grimes said.
After the program, the audience descended upon University Avenue to begin the two-mile march east to the Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-Purpose Center at 1028 NE 14th St.
"It's 1 o'clock folks. Let's go," said Sam Haywood. He was in charge of counting participants and making sure they were spread out and not bunched in groups. At NE 3rd Street, the first line of marchers began the trek, holding banners and singing, "This Little Light of Mine."
Deborah Jones, a physical education teacher at M.K. Rawlings Elementary, was dressed in the school's colors of blue and gold, leading a group of Rawlings students in the march. Jones helped get parents and faculty at the east Gainesville school to see how important it was for students to participate, mainly because she marched years prior and said she hadn't seen any elementary schools involved.
"We have the day off and this is more than just a holiday. I wanted our school's students to understand what Dr. King died for and to keep his dream alive," Jones said.
Ama Mathewos, president of the Lambda Psi chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., said the chapter decided to come out to show they are appreciative of King's efforts and to show they are active in the area of community building. About 22 members in red and white joined Mathewos to participate in the day's events.
Beatrice Turner participated in her first march on Monday. She said she was asked to do so by her sister, who was visiting the area from New York.
"We know what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for and we want to continue to keep his dream alive. We want generations to come to know what he struggled for. I don't want his dream to die," Turner said.
She continued, "I'm so happy to see young people out and involved in this. Regardless of the stereotypes about our young black people they are out here marching and that says a lot."
Some decided not to walk, but stood on the sidewalks along the march route and observed those marching.
"We're not walking for nothing," one woman shouted. Standing in front of the Kirby Smith Administration Office Building, she raised her fist to encourage marchers.
Derrick Peat, a University of Florida student, said he marched because he, as a Muslim, believes in racial equality and in keeping King's dream alive.
Some decided to use the march to express their political views.
Jackie Betz, an east Gainesville resident, marched with a pole signifying a clothesline, with pink slips pinned to it.
She said the pink women's undergarments symbolized the paper pink slips given to someone when they are fired. She feels the pink slip should be given to the president.
"George Bush is a mass murderer. Arrest him," Betz shouted. Betz is a member of the group Code Pink, Women for Peace.
Betz said she believed that if King were alive today he would be against the war in Iraq.
Archie Williams, also a march participant, said he and his wife, Angela, have been participating in the marches since they began in Gainesville and that he isn't surprised the march has grown a lot since its beginning.
"This is all good, but I wish we could get this many people involved in getting alcohol and drugs out of the neighborhoods, then we would have even more people to march. We need to talk about what this march means to our children while they are young," Williams said.
Once the group reached the MLK Multi-Purpose Center the highlight of the program was an automobile giveaway from Saturn of Gainesville by owner Roland Daniels. The giveaway was part of the commission's "Empowerment through Education" symposium held Saturday.
Andrea Thomas screamed with excitement when her name was called as the winner, after the first name called was disregarded because the person wasn't present to win.
Thomas was sitting on the far left side of the building on the highest bleacher row, but her screams of excitement could be heard throughout the auditorium. Once she made it to the stage, she had to sit down to receive the keys to the 1996 Saturn that she had won.
All Thomas could say to the audience was, "God is good."
Thomas later said that she felt the Lord is blessing her through winning the automobile. She said she told her daughter, who was a winning participant in the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida 2006 Black History/Culture Brain Bowl, held a week ago, that they were going to keep winning in the family.
The day's events ended with a Gospel Extravaganza, with Karl "The Rev" Anderson serving as the master of ceremonies. Groups such as the Gainesville High Gospel Choir, Destiny Dance Studio, and Souls on Fire entertained the audience with song, dance and holy hip-hop.
Rodney Long, president of the MLK Commission of Florida said, "If we don't celebrate this holiday, don't depend on anyone else to celebrate it."
Long estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 people had participated in the entire day's events, saying he was pleased to see so many young people involved and that it shows King's legacy will be celebrated for years to come.
His goal, he said, is to change the community's mindset that the King holiday is for African Americans. It is an American hero's holiday, Long said.
Teresa D. Southern can be contacted at (352) 337-0373 or at southet@gvilleguardian.com.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top