Large Crowd Gathers for 30th Annual NEGA Peace Walk

It was a bright and chilly afternoon. The spirit of the group was optimistic and cheerful in spite of the cold. We gathered at the gazebo in Clarkesville. As we greeted those we knew and introduced ourselves to new friends, blue scarves were handed out. Not only were they a welcome respite from the cold, they also served as a call to peace and unity. Soon all of the participants were wrapped in aqua warmth. Fitting that we represented “many waves; one ocean.”

Over 180 people gathered Sunday to celebrate the 30th Annual Northeast Georgia Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk and Celebration. The organizers called us to be “part of a magnificent, precious, beautiful whole.” Julianne Wilson was the coordinator of the event and members of the planning committee represent a wonderfully diverse group from our community: Sam Buice, Ernest Burns, Jake Hendrix, Portia Burns, Cathy Morgan, Denise Eller, Sandy Lyndon, Tammy Presnell, Shun Ekole, Karen Fain, Kat Stratton, Cassidy Sullens, Billy Cannon, Doug Henry, and Barbara Steinhaus.

Close to 200 people gathered at the gazebo in downtown Clarkesville for the start of the .3 mile walk.
Close to 200 people gathered at the gazebo in downtown Clarkesville for the start of the .3 mile walk.

We walked from the gazebo on the Clarkesville square to Grace Calvary Episcopal Church.  Bishop Ernest Burns welcomed us and urged us to walk with someone we didn’t know. He challenged us to reach out and connect as we trekked to the church. Habersham County law enforcement was there to direct us safely over the highway as we followed the leaders, singing and talking and laughing and rejoicing all the way.

Once at the church, the celebration began. And what a celebration it was! Portia Burns was Master of Ceremonies and she deftly introduced and moved between sound system and drums, wherever she was needed. There was music. The choir from Bean Creek Baptist Church, “Amazing Grace” sung in Cherokee and English by the Women of Heart Drummers, “Lean on Me” (with motions!) taught to the crowd by youth from Shady Grove, an original song sung by Hannah Sage, the Northeast Georgia Latino Singers, a song of peace in Hebrew sung by Peri Lyn Gordon, as well as the music of Portia and the Shady Grove choir.

There was a Baha’I peace spoken over the crowd by Jake Hendrix. A Laotian Peace Prayer spoken by the father/son team of John and Souvahn Touralack. A short story written by John Lewis, a civil rights leader, read by Doug Henry and Barbara Steinhaus. Julianne Wilson urged the crowd to get involved in community issues or programs by signing up at posters on the wall. The goal was simple: develop groups with the “potential to foster positive change in our communities and beyond!” There was a precious time to remember those who had walked before us.

For many, the highlight of the day was an opportunity to offer a public word of thanks to two men who have worked so diligently to bring peace to our community. Jake Hendrix and Ernest Burns were presented with “Dreamweaver of the Year” awards. Their contributions to our community were many, too many to list here!  Denise Eller was the presenter.

Peace Walk 1Over 200 blue peace scarves were made by the Dreamweavers. As we wrapped ourselves into them, we also wrapped our arms around each other, figuratively and literally. Warm words were spoken and the spirit of the group truly was one of unity and love. We said a responsive reading inspired by Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech adapted by Julianne Wilson. Spoken first in Spanish then Laotian and English, “Now is the time!”, “I have a dream!”, and “Let Freedom Ring!” echoed through Julian hall and the yard of Grace Calvary.

What a wonderful day for an amazing event! Next year’s walk will be on Sunday, January 15, 2017. Save the date!

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