MILLEDGEVILLE — The Baldwin County community united Monday to rejoice in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy and remind residents of his visions, words and philosophies.
Marching alongside community leaders, Georgia College students and staff, and citizens of all ages and backgrounds from Huley Park to Flagg Chapel Baptist Church Monday afternoon inspired Faris Flournoy, Baldwin High School alumnus and local businessman, to pay homage to “the late, great fraternity brother of Alpha Phi Alpha, Dr. King.”
“Dr. King’s leadership led the nation. We’re walking in his steps that he led for us today,” Flournoy said. “It’s important for the community to participate ... and to continue that conversation.”
The national Day of Service kicked off in the community with volunteers beautifying the grounds of Eagle Ridge Elementary School Monday morning. Communities In Schools of Milledgeville-Baldwin County (CISMBC) and the Communities In Schools AmeriCorps Tutor Program partnered with Georgia Power Company and Georgia College Gamma Sigma Sigma students to complete various projects, including picking up trash, trimming shrubs, painting 12 bathrooms, sanding and painting outside railings and checking power throughout the building.
“Christi Tyson, who is the CIS site coordinator at Eagle Ridge, organized the event along with [Eagle Ridge Principal] Jeanette Scott, the assistant principal and Phil Hartley, who works with all of the schools on special projects. We had over 50 volunteers,” CISMBC Executive Director Sandy Baxter said. “It was such a success. I think it was a wonderful way to honor the legacy Dr. King left us in working together, especially at a school; it’s a valuable experience for all of us. I think everybody felt good about honoring this special day and a special man that this day stands for.”
Starting at Huley Park at noon, a group of around 75 citizens marched and sang their way to Flagg Chapel for a tribute service. Throughout the march, students from Georgia College’s Department of English and Rhetoric delivered excerpts from Dr. King’s speeches.
The church program included prayers, musical selections by the Flipper Chapel AME Church male choir, a proclamation presentation by Milledgeville Mayor Pro-Tem Denese Shinholster, recognition of elected officials and keynote speaker Richard Ramsey.
“[Dr. King] was a good man. He not only had a vision, but a great vision; a vision so powerful that no average man could comprehend,” said Ramsey, founder of the club Lifelong Solutions for Male Students. “This community has to come together for the sake of our future. Our children may be 20 percent of our population, but they are 100 percent of our future. We have to bridge the gap by loving each other.”
Before the closing selection of “Lift Every Voice,” Georgia College President Dr. Steve Dorman provided closing remarks.
“My friends, let me tell you. I’ve only been here five months, but I am awake and I am ready to work. I’m ready to bridge the gap,” Dorman said. “As Dr. King said, ‘It’s time to do what is right.’ Let’s work passionately to rid our town of racial injustice. We can weave together a beautiful new garment of destiny. Let’s bridge the gap.”
For Milledgeville native Chiquita Davis, coming back to her hometown 33 years later and experiencing the community’s togetherness awakened her to giving back.
“It’s amazing to see how things have changed since I’ve been gone. It’s wonderful to see people of all different nationalities,” she said after the church program. “I think [the service] makes people think about where we came from and where we are going.”
A community cookout was held at Huley Park featuring food, music, vendors and a social justice panel discussing community and social issues.
“This was the first time we’ve ever tried something like this. I think it added another element to the cookout and allowed people to put things in perspective about Dr. King’s legacy and realizing action has to be made,” said Emmanuel Little, chair of the MLK planning committee. “The panelists talked about Georgia College and community relationships, and everything from domestic violence to mass incarceration. This was definitely a step in the right direction.”
Georgia College will hold a food-and-book drive through Friday, Feb. 8 to benefit the Twin Lakes Library System, Baldwin State Prison and Cafe Central. Non-perishable goods and gently used books can be dropped off at Walter B. Williams Park and around Georgia College’s campus, including the Cultural Center at the Smith House, Sandella’s on West Campus, the GC Library & Instructional Technology Center and The Max dining hall on main campus.
Georgia College and community organizations can compete for a $200 gift certificate from Sodexo by dropping off the most goods at The Max between 1 and 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8.
“The turnout this year was well beyond the committee’s expectations. The cookout had a good plus 200 people. What I was really encouraged by was there were so many people from Georgia College at the tribute service. The president even marched right next to me,” Little said. “[Monday’s] event was the first step in what I hope is a new era. The [Georgia College] president is willing to bridge the gap and he’s proving that he is passionate about the history of what the speakers and panelists talked about. We have to make sure the rest of us are on board, and that the community and Georgia College plays their part. We’re all about movement in our community.”
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VIDEO: MLK Day of Service 2013