Celebrating Dr. King’s dream

Rico Lissimore sings "Because of Who You Are" during a celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Downtown Community Plaza Gainesville, Fla., Monday.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 19, 2009 at 10:22 p.m.

A T-shirt worn at the annual Martin Luther King Day events in Gainesville summed up how many of the hundreds of participants felt.

Screen-printed on the shirt was an image of Martin Luther King with the quotation, "I have a dream," alongside an image of Barack Obama and the words, "I am the dream."

Monday's events were an opportunity for several generations of black residents to talk about King's efforts and what it will mean to have a black man lead the nation.

"I am in awe right now," said Gregory Pelham, 52, a counselor at Eastside High School and pastor of Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Alachua. "Growing up we understood that we could be anything that we wanted to be with hard work, but we understood that there was one road, one bridge that you could not cross. And now, that bridge has been crossed and that opens the door for others."

Monday's events included a ceremony at the Bo Diddley Downtown Community Plaza. Several student organizations from the University of Florida were on hand to recognize King's accomplishments as well as to celebrate Obama's impending inauguration.

Brittney Bush, vice president of the 16-year-old service organization Sistuhs, said her group was celebrating King's legacy while preparing for the inauguration, which she referred to as "a significant piece of history in the making."

"I think this (Obama's election) is what Dr. Martin Luther King would have liked to see happen," Bush said.

Following the ceremony, the crowd marched along University Avenue and north on Waldo Road to the Martin Luther King Multi-Purpose Center for a gospel music program.

Kenneth Simmons, 59, was assisting with the program and marveling that the United States was a day away from having its first black president.

"This is a wonderful thing that I did not think I would ever live to see, but now it is happening and isn't it wonderful?" Simmons said.

Amid the noise and happy confusion of the day, James Barton, a former Marine and soon-to-be-retired sergeant from the Florida Department of Corrections, said he was also thrilled to know that Obama would be leading the nation.

"It's about time," Barton said. "We've waited for this and it's about time."

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