In Pictures: MLK Day March and Church Service
New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Snellville organized the city's first-ever march to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
On Monday, New Jerusalem Baptist Church organized the city's first-ever march to honor the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The march began at noon, leaving Snellville City Hall and stopping traffic along the way to New Jerusalem Baptist Church located on Dogwood Road. Snellville's mayor and city council, religious leaders, local nonprofits, and citizens of all ages gathered for the historic event.
"I felt a little bit of pride inside as I looked back," said Mayor Kelly Kautz. "I looked back, and we had the whole street covered. I think it was a great turnout."
Snellville did not officially designate Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday until 2007. Only a few years earlier in 2001, did the city vote for Melvin Everson as its first African-American elected official.
"We've (had) great strides," Kautz added,"but we still have a lot of work to do in the community as a whole, and obviously with our politics."
Monday's march was yet another step toward a more progressive and diverse Snellville. Cub Scout Pack 1208 marched in front, with the Rev. Elijah Collins of New Jerusalem Baptist Church, Kautz and former Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer immediately behind.
Participants sang "We Shall Overcome" along the one-mile route.
The march was followed by a special 1 p.m. church service, attended by Kautz, Oberholtzer, Everson and Councilman Mike Sabbagh, among others.
Everson, who spoke at the service, said it was special that on "this day" Snellville's leaders came together despite their differences. "We are all God's children, created in his own image," he said.
He recounted growing up in south Georgia during the civil rights era, wondering why the color of one's skin could mean inequality. Little did he know, that he'd grow up to break down some of those barriers.
"This is a great day in the history of Snellville -- I'm telling you!" he told the church crowd.
Ballard, a white man who did not grow up in the civil rights movement, said he grew "a bold sense of comfort," knowing he personally was not a part of the atrocities committed against African-Americans. The history was something he "overlooked for a long time."
"I must make the confession today that I am deeply ashamed of the oppression and the tyranny that's in the history of this country," Ballard said.
He added: "I have come to realize, I have been able to make a connection and have the understanding that there is no way you can outdo the actions of the past unless you are willing to absolutely live in defiance of the past."
In addition to speeches and sermons to honor the day, New Jerusalem's choir led the group in several lively numbers, the dance ministry performed to "Happy Birthday" by Stevie Wonder, and parts of King's legendary "I Have a Dream" speech were read.
"It is my desire that when we do this event (that) we do it together," said Collins at the church service, speaking on the future of the day's activities and the need for unity. "As we do this this year, I want us to know that next year, we gon' be bigger."
(Editor's Note: Video of the events will be available later on Patch.)