A day on, not a day off in Atmore: Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.
By By Janet Little Cooper
A parade and program honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired hundreds of local residents to not only remember King's dream, but to live it as well.
The Concerned Citizens of Atmore organized the 2007 parade, march and program that included more than 50 floats and marchers.
The parade that began at Houston-Avery Park disbanded on Carver Avenue at Gaines Chapel Chapel A.M.E. Church for the remainder of the holiday celebration.
Bishop Willie L. Williams, presided over the service, introducing a multitude of guests including Atmore city councilman John Garrard, who spoke of unity in Atmore, prior to the keynote address presented by Fredrick Richardson of Mobile.
Richardson, a native of Conecuh County, serves as a Mobile City Councilman and chairperson of District One and has published numerous books.
Richardson commented to the crowd about the success of the parade.
"I saw your parade," Richardson said. "For every adult I saw, I saw 10 children. To Atmore I would like to say, 'Your children are your greatest resource. Raise them and train them in the path they should go.'"
Richardson used a conch shell to illustrate his message urging those in attendance to remember their heritage and things that their ancestors had taught them.
"Forget this business about race," Richardson said. "I did what the system wanted me to. I went to the colored restroom and stood in the colored line and didn't say anything until the year 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. jolted me into action. I was at his funeral and was so moved by it."
Richardson went on to say that some people say we haven't made any progress.
"To those people I say, they weren't living back there with us then. We have grown beyond holding hands."
The WLW combined choir led by Reginald McCants, Felicia Bishop and Vania Gray led the service in music.
Former school teachers,Marcelete Harris and Eldred Pritchett served as the grand marshalls for the parade and were presented with certificates in the celebration.
Josulyn Marshall, the 2006 MLK Jr. Day parade queen crowned Vania Gray as the 2007 parade queen during the service as well.
It has been 23 years since the first observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday. President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law making the third Monday of January a national holiday celebrating the birth and life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 15 years after the great leaders death.
King would have celebrated his 78th birthday on Monday, Jan. 15, 2007.