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Rev. Vaseal Montgomery urged the community to come together to make a difference, to impact positive change.

LIVE OAK — Recalling the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, Rev. Vaseal Montgomery also remembered his drum major instinct.

In her address to the community at the African Baptist Church as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day festivities, Montgomery said there is still a lot of work to do in the pursuit of King’s vision and dream and channeling that instinct can help.

“We need to have that drum major instinct,” Montgomery said referring to King’s February 1968 sermon in Atlanta in which King said, “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.”

Montgomery said that fight for justice, peace and righteousness continues today. But for that fight to be successful, it requires unity and strength, strength that only comes from God. It’s the same strength that allowed King to fight for Civil Rights in the 1960s.

But it’s not easy, Montgomery said. She admitted that one look around the world, one time watching the news and it is easy to lose hope and the desire to keep marching.

Still, she said, keeping that hope alive is necessary.

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Cora Owens was one of the two grand marshals of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, which was themed 'Freedom Shining a Light on Unsung Heroes.'

“Let’s rise together as a community,” she said. “This is more important today than ever before because we need to take the opportunity to rise against racism, to rise against sexism, to rise against classism, to rise against drug abuse, to rise against alcoholism, to rise against child abuse, to rise against spousal abuse.

“Together, we can accomplish much. Together, we can live our dreams. Together, we can create new dreams. Together, we can do what is right in the sight of the Almighty. Together, we can serve others with love just like Martin Luther King did, just like Jesus Christ did.

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Jessie Philpot was one of the two grand marshals of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, which was themed 'Freedom Shining a Light on Unsung Heroes.'

“It’s more than a march. It’s more than Civil Rights. It’s an opportunity to make a difference in our community. It’s an opportunity to impact positive change.”

As part of Monday’s celebration of King’s life, local heroes were honored for their work to impact positive change locally. Jessie Philpot and Cora Owens were the grand marshals of the parade for their years of dedicated service to the community.

“The grand marshal is someone who takes a seat of honor, a position of honor,” Roshondra Herring said in honoring them. “Oftentimes, they are high ranking officials. This year we chose two high ranking officials with whom we are all familiar with.”

“Freedom Shining a Light on Unsung Heroes” was the theme of this year’s event, including the annual parade. Parade winners were Douglass High Alumni, first; Udell Funeral Home, second; and Love Ministry, third.

Jamie Wachter is the editor of the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press.

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