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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, 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 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.

The Rev. Robbie Ballard, of in Auburn, Ga., gave the sermon. Other speakers included: Rabbi Derek Leman and Laura Drake of Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry.

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.)

Darla Dixon January 17, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Unfortunately there was a large segment of Snellville citizens who knew nothing about this event. I have been writing about Snellville since 2005 and am on a LOT of mailing lists and received NOTHING about this. So, believe me, there would have been a larger turn out of people if the information had been disseminated better. I would have been sharing it on Twitter and Facebook. I think a lot of people felt left out of this event. Especially being the first time anything has ever been done for MLK Day in Snellville, the city should have made huge news of this event. I am disappointed but glad to see those that did show up to pay homage to Dr. King's legacy. I just hate seeing Dr. King's legacy being used by politicians for their political gain. That is really disgusting to me. I am not ashamed to say I was nearly in tears about this yesterday.
Joy L. Woodson January 17, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Darla, thanks for your concerns... Concern 1: Snellville Patch wrote about this event last week, and it was also posted to the front of the site over the entire three-day weekend. In addition, it was posted on our Twitter account, as well as on our Facebook page. The mayor also mentioned it in her announcements at last week's council meeting. It was also listed in the agenda packet. I received information about the event, and also saw it on the agenda. Mayor Kautz shared the event (our story) on her Facebook page, as well. It was mostly a grassroots event, but there was also a press release and flyer. Concern 2: City officials did attend the two-part event, and several were asked to speak at the service, and they did so, as is the case in many MLK Day events, which are used as a call to action and service in many respects. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, for example spoke at the one at Ebenezer Baptist.
Laura Drake January 17, 2012 at 10:45 PM
I think the reason that the word didn't get out was that Pastor Collins said that this idea came to him only two weeks ago. He called over to the Co-op and when he encountered my excitement :) he invited the Co-op to have a presence at the service. It was such a fabulous day. I love Dr. King. He is one of my heroes. So this was a pure joy for me. Everyone was talking about next year. Pastor Collins said that he will get the ball rolling much earlier next year and perhaps it can become a more organized event. I am looking forward to it already.
Jonathan Cates January 18, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Nice pictures! Thanks, and God Bless!
Joy L. Woodson January 18, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Thanks Mr. Cates!

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