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MLK_Feature_2012_DSC_0136_copyForty-eight years after Martin Luther King Jr., delivered his original "I Have a Dream" speech, his dream and his legacy live on as nearly 300 gathered at Alachua’s Cleather Hathcock Community Center Monday to celebrate the civil rights leader’s birthday.

ALACHUA – Forty-four years after the death of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader still inspires people to gather and celebrate his dream.

The City of Alachua held its 7th Annual MLK Celebration at the Cleather Hancock Community Center on Monday, where about 300 people attended.

“He not only paved a way for blacks, but for everybody,” said Annette Lingo of Alachua. “I thank God that we have the opportunity to be a part of that.”

Lingo led the Old Town Church of God in Christ choir as they sang “God is Great” and “Let’s Get Back to Eden.”

The program included performances by the Old Town Church of God in Christ, the Westside Church of God in Christ and students from Alachua’s Music and Arts Program (or M.A.P).

Featured speaker Pastor Ted Welcome addressed the issue that there is still progress to be made, especially within the spirit.

“What really makes us free?” he said.

Schools are desegregated, public water foundations are no longer separate, and there is availability of the ballot for every man, he said. But Welcome posed the question “Are we really free?”

“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” he quoted from the Bible. Welcome’s sermon was about how true freedom was found in Jesus Christ. In Jesus, he said, all people are of the same family.

The audience responded to the speakers with the appreciative “Amen” and applause. During the choir performances, nearly everyone was clapping and singing along.

Alachua mayor Gib Coerper said the event was a success, and that each year it draws a bigger crowd. “It is a great way for the community to come together,” he said.

Adam Boukari, assistant to the Alachua city manager, said the event usually takes two weeks to plan.

“We have a very active church community in Alachua that enjoys being involved in many of our citywide events,” he said.

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. event is no different. In recent years, Boukari said, the featured speakers have been pastors from the local community. Most of the events details remain unchanged from previous years, except for performers involved.

“This is something that is homegrown,” said Alachua Chief of Police Joel DeCoursey, Jr. Prior to creating the MLK Celebration, the community did not commemorate the day as a whole. It was only celebrated in local churches. Now, DeCoursey said, it has become an annual event to be reckoned with.

“The significance is that our younger generation needs to understand that it hasn’t always been the way it is now, and we need to not revert to how it used to be,” DeCoursey said. “We need to move forward together as a human race, not as individual races.”

Audience member Gwen Richardson said, “If we all just work together as a community, as a family, we can overcome any obstacle with a little faith and help from our fellow man.” She felt the celebration was nice and brought together a diverse crowd.

Brenda Holmes, of Gainesville, said this year was her first time attending the Martin Luther King Celebration.

“We are just keeping the dream alive,” she said.

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