Brookhaven’s third annual MLK Dinner and Celebration at Lynwood Park’s community center brought more than 100 people together to honor the legacy of the civil rights leader as well as recognize the Lynwood residents who were the first to integrate DeKalb schools in 1968.

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond speaks at Brookhaven’s annual MLK Dinner and Celebration held at Lynwood Park. (Dyana Bagby)

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond delivered the keynote speech, recognizing the evening was designed to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. But, he added, he wanted to focus on the day and days following MLK Day.

“Tomorrow when you go back to work, when you hear something racist or a sexual comment, will you sit silent or speak up?” he asked.

Thurmond also noted that recent vulgar comments reported to have been used by President Donald Trump to disparage people from Africa and Haiti have been rejected by people around the globe.

“Dr. King said there will be evil men … but it’s not what the bad men say or what the bad men do,” Thurmond said. “The damage is done when good men and women fall silent. What will you say? What will good people do?”

Thurmond also praised the “historic men and women of Lynwood Park,” many of whom were in attendance, who paved the way for future black students. He recalled being the son of a sharecropper and his days of attending segregated schools in Athens, Ga.

Lynwood Park Community Center was once the elementary and high school in Brookhaven’s historic African-American community. When DeKalb County schools finally became integrated in 1968, nearly 20 high school students at the Lynwood school were bused to the all-white Cross Keys High School and eventually became known as the Lynwood Integrators, and are now known as the Lynwood Trailblazers.

Three years ago, Councilmember Linley Jones worked with members of the Lynwood Park community to organize the first city-sponsored MLK Day event to also recognize the local residents’ role in the civil rights movement.

Gary McDaniel said he was the first student to step off the bus when he and his classmates integrated Cross Keys High School 50 years ago. He still lives in Lynwood Park where his father and son also live.

“I marched with Dr. King and it is so important to remember him,” he said. “I’m also very proud of our community.”

Photos Dyana Bagby

Rev. R.J. Williams gives the closing prayer.

Jackie Williams sings praise during the MLK Day Dinner at Lynwood Park. She has lived in Lynwood Park all of her 64 years and is one of the community’s original school integrators.

Janice Chapman, a member of Lynwood’s class of 1969, sings during the MLK Day celebration.

Jasmine Douglas sang a solo during the event.

DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond, who also attended segregated schools in Georgia, walked among the MLK Day Dinner attendees, urging people to work for justice for all every day.

Peter Scott, former reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a member of the Lynwood Park Class of 1961, spoke at the event.

Comedian Bobby Brown entertained the crowd.

Former DeKalb CEO Liane Levetan attended Brookhaven’s MLK Day event.

Angela Lockwood, left, and her sister Denise Lockwood Henderson, were born and raised in Lynwood Park.

Former Brookhaven Mayor Rebecca Chase Williams.

Local band EJ & the Versatiles entertained the crowd.

From left are Debbie and Mel Pender, Steve Wallace and Nicole Arcieri. Mel Pender and Wallace are from Lynwood Park. Pender went on to win an Olympic gold medal in track the 1968 Summer Olympics. Wallace played in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers when they won Super Bowls in, 1988, 1989 and 1994.

Dr. Hubert Brown and Donna Martin attended the MLK Day event. Martin was born and raised in Lynwood Park and now works for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. She said her grandmother worked in the Lynwood school cafeteria. When Martin was in the 6th grade, she was bused to a DeKalb elementary school as an integrator.

From left are Monica Ernst; Councilmember Linley Jones; Mayor John Ernst; DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond and his wife, Zola; DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader; and state Rep. Meagan Hanson of Brookhaven.

About to grab some dinner at the event are, from left, Claudia Colichon of the city of Brookhaven with Los Vecinos de Buford Highway founders Rebekah Morris and Marco Palma.

Dora Sturdivant, also a Lynwood integrator, claps and sings during the MLK Dinner event.

Janice Chapman sings a solo.

More than 100 people attended the third annual MLK Day Dinner.

Rev. Donald Sawyer gives the opening prayer. Emcee Mark Winne, Brookhaven resident and WSB-TV reporter, is at the left.

Mark Winne of WSB-TV served as emcee for the MLK Day Dinner and celebration.

Gary McDaniel, a Lynwood integrator, said he was the first student of the bus when he and other Lynwood students were bused to Cross Keys High School in 1968.

Darlene Jordan, far left, with Fikree Jordan, age 4, Aaliyah Guthrie, and Farah Jordan, age 6. Aaliyan now lives in Alpharetta, but was raised in Lynwood Park and many of her relatives still live there. “It’s really nice to see everyone getting together,” she said.

Retired Brig. Gen. Richard Dix with Brookhaven Planning Commission member John Funny. Dix recently retired after 30 years in the Army. “Many of the Lynwood trailblazers raised me,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve been home in 30 years.”

    

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