By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
Local efforts to foster the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are set to surface later in January.
A parade on California Street at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21, will be followed by a dinner ceremony at Gainesville Civic Center hosted by Terry Ashby, principal at Gainesville Middle School. Organizer Jerry Henderson said 2013 marks the first year of his direct involvement in the event, and he hopes to see parade participation from everyone who wants to march.
“They can walk, ride a bike or drive their cars,” Henderson said Thursday. “It’s just forming a community and that’s what this is about. It’s one community and one people; there’s just one race, the human race, and that’s what we’re trying to establish.”
The city of Gainesville is now entering its 21st year to formally honor Martin Luther King, Jr. by way of special events. In 2011, local historian Tom Carson explained that in 1991, local involvement was minimal at best. He cited the early efforts of the late Rev. Clarence Tucker in helping coordinate what became the day of observation many know today.
“The county of Cooke was not participating in closing down,” Carson said about the early 1990s. “Certainly during that timeframe, even the school district wasn’t closed down. So the observation of the importance of the work of Martin Luther King has increased over the years.”
Henderson said Thursday that to his observation, proceedings improve each year, though he wishes even more local residents would get involved.
“I think it’s a success and everything we put forward is for a reason,” he said, and added later that the reason has remained the same through two decades. “It’s to bring people together, not just black people. White people, black people, Hispanic people. It’s to bring us all together to represent Gainesville as a community because we’re all in this together. It’s the same common goal: that everyone achieves more.”
Organizing committee member Carolyn Hendricks said the foundation of King’s legacy is that people should always treated equally. The annual parade gives this message its most prominent exposure — and without it, she said, the city would be missing something.
“People would not know about Martin Luther King’s legacy, about his works and his effort for people to be treated equally,” she said. “Beyond that, because he was a preacher, his belief in God brought about a lot of efforts from him to say everyone should be treated equally. That we should work together and not be judged by skin color.”