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 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.”