Still Working To Fulfill The Dream


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By Lance Griffin/Media General News Service
Published: January 20, 2009

DOTHAN, Ala.—Emma Coleman remembers her grandmother telling her that she could become anything she wanted, even president.

Coleman, who remembers her grandmother’s words even though they were spoken almost 70 years ago, said she and her friends laughed at the thought.

“Hey, we didn’t believe that,” she said.

To her, it was the well-meaning attempt of someone whose goal was to keep her grandchildren focused and out of trouble - not a statement about something literally attainable.

But Monday, as the 75-year-old Coleman walked briskly over the Reeves Street bridge to keep up with more than 100 other marchers, she spoke about her grandmother’s words in the concrete rather than the abstract. Now, when Coleman tells her grandchildren the same thing, they probably won’t laugh.

“Now, they see it in real life. It’s something real to them,” Coleman said.

The crowd began marching down Montgomery Highway and over the Reeves Street bridge toward Greater Beulah Baptist Church to commemorate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. But today’s presidential inauguration makes it impossible to separate the two. For many who marched and attended the celebration at Greater Beulah, the Inauguration adds substance to the symbolism of Monday’s event.

“(The Inauguration) is just the icing on the cake,” said Pastor Tommy Davis of New Miranda Baptist Church in Dothan. “Before, it was just a possibility. Now, it’s a reality.”

Longtime marchers say the crowd was slightly lower than average, but attributed it to a large contingent from Dothan who were attending the Inauguration in Washington, D.C.

Gennette Guillory, however, was hoping for more - if not more people, then more diversity.

“What I want to know is where the white people are? Why aren’t there some white people marching with us? Martin Luther King marched for everyone,” Guillory said.

But little could dampen the enthusiasm of most of the marchers.

Ricky Robertson said it was encouraging to remember Martin Luther King and inspiring to see the Inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, but he said nothing would change just because a black man is now president.

“Only one person can change a man, and that’s Jesus Christ,” he said. “We can look up to our leaders and we can lean on the next person, but we have to allow ourselves to be changed by Christ. That’s the only way to have real change.”

Robertson’s words were followed up by those from Rev. Frank Kennedy Jr., pastor of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Lanett. Kennedy spoke to a packed church at Greater Beulah later Monday.

Kennedy said Obama’s Inauguration today was not the full fulfillment of King’s dream, but “just a part of the dream.”

Individual change, he said, will help fulfill King’s dream.


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