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Black Easter: Service to mark 39th anniversary

COVINGTON - The 39th anniversary of the Black Easter March will be celebrated with a 3 p.m. Easter Sunday service on the Square in downtown Covington.

The African-American Historical Association of Newton County is sponsoring the event, which commemorates Civil Rights marches held in 1970 to end segregation in Newton County.

More than 5,000 people attended the original march, according to Forrest Sawyer, founder of the African-American Historical Association. The result was the desegregation of the local schools, hospital and police department.

At Sunday's service, Deacon Richard Jenkins of Good Hope Baptist Church, one of the leaders of the march, will be the keynote speaker, along with Norris Freeman, the 1970 R.L. Cousin High School Senior Class President.

Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta, who serves as president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, will also speak.

Brooks was a field director assigned by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to lead the Civil Rights movement in Newton County. He and Sawyer were arrested on Black Easter along with four others, known as the "Newton Six." The men were jailed without due process for 45 days in the Newton County Jail on charges including inciting a riot and marching without a permit, Sawyer said.

This is the fourth consecutive year the march has been commemorated with a public ceremony.

Sawyer said it's a good time to remember how far race relations have come and how much civil rights have advanced in the past 40 years.

"It's important because of the times in which we live. We are seeing things we haven't seen before, crossing bridges that we've never crossed before. We're coming together as we have never come together before," Sawyer said. "In this community, I think everyone is being represented well politically, civically and religiously...(But) the way we are now didn't come about out of the sky. It was worked at. The rights we enjoy now were hard fought for."

Sunday's service will be broadcast live on WGFS 1430 AM and over the Internet at www.afrocaribradio.com on the show "Thy Brothers and Sisters Keeper" hosted by Sawyer and his wife, Sharon.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.