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Education was theme of MLK celebration

Several hundred people gathered at Hutto Middle School to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s 81st birth anniversary on Monday.

The occasion was marked with speeches, lively gospel music and dancing. The audience also demonstrated the late civil rights leader’s love for other people by donating money to a Haiti relief effort during the event. The donation was made spontaneously after Bainbridge City Councilman Luther Conyers reminded the audience of their blessings and asked them to think about the Caribbean nation’s predicament after its major earthquake on Jan. 12.

The theme of this year’s local MLK celebration was “Change…Education is the Key … Non-Violence.”

The keynote speaker was Judge Ronnie Joe Lane, who is one of two judges in the Superior Court of the Pataula Judicial Circuit.

Judge Lane read a synopsis of King’s education, including his three college degrees, as well his accomplishments and leadership during the American Civil Rights Movement, which Tuesday’s speakers said is still ongoing.

“[When King was assasinated,] no one killed his spirit, his ideals or his legacy,” Lane said. “They did not kill the civil rights movement.”

Lane said education was key to Dr. King’s ability to impact people’s thoughts and actions and encouraged today’s leaders to continue King’s work. He said problems that still prevent true social equality in America include students who drop out of school, gangs and the lack of role models for at-risk youth.

“Things still aren’t equal,” Lane said. “But we have to do what we can to tear down the obstacles that keep children from having a chance for a better life.”

Lane repeated King’s call for people to serve their communities, when he quoted him as saying, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Gospel Music Worship of America, a group of Southwest Georgia singers, performed three inspirational songs, including “Please Be Patient with Me,” “All Night” by Alvin Darling and “Every Day Will Be Sunday, By and By.”

A group of young girls who comprise the Union Missionary Baptist Church Praise Team performed a lyrical dance to “I Need You Now.”

Wallace Sholar, a field representative for U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, presented the Rev. Adolph Noble Sr. with a special congressional recognition for the pastor’s service to the community. Rev. Noble and his wife, Sonja, were also the grand marshals for the parade prior to the event at Hutto Middle School.

Also receiving plaques of recognition were: Florence Harrell, the former principal of Lillian E. Williams Elementary School in Attapulgus and a current assistant principal at Hutto Middle School; retired teacher Pauline Love-Gaines, a former assistant principal at Bainbridge High School; Steven Dupree, the current principal of Hutto Middle School; and also, Judge Lane.

Opening ceremony

Earlier Monday morning, the day began with several elected officials speaking about the vision of King and how it relates to Decatur County.

Sheriff Wiley Griffin said the best testament for education was the new Bainbridge High School.

“We have laid the foundation here in Decatur County, and we can follow the footsteps of Dr. King,” Griffin said.

Edward Reynolds, who spoke for the first time as mayor of Bainbridge, asked the audience outside the Decatur County Courthouse’s west entrance to think of ways to make Bainbridge a better place to live, and to let him know.

“I think we can have a version of a promised land here in Bainbridge,” Reynolds said.

“We want to improve Bainbridge to be that promised land,” he added later.

Decatur County Commissioner Palmer Rich extolled the virtues of education. However, he also asked the audience keep the Haitian people in their thoughts and remember what suffering they must be enduring.

The Potter Street Elementary School Honor Chorus, led by Shylene Crump, sang several songs during the program.