Photograph: Celebration at Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial event in Opelousas. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin)
There was dancing and clapping to the powerful sounds of gospel music at Holy Ghost Catholic Church Monday afternoon, as speakers recalled that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., believed that dreams can be attained through togetherness.
The 41st annual Dr. King celebration and memorial event In Opelousas which also included a parade through the residential heart of the city, recognized the 94th birthday of the former civil rights leader, who died in 1968.
Elected state and city officials addressed in speeches the core principles of King’s ideals and explained how individuals can still effectively use those same tenants six decades later.
The church pews were filled by several hundred who witnessed the two and a half hour program after the short parade that featured dance teams and floats.
Brian Thomas, a Southern University student, told the crowd that King believed in the fluidity of intent in order to accomplish change,
“In order to be set in motion, the dream must have a blueprint. You need to organize and then keep moving,” Thomas said.
Opelousas Mayor Julius Alsandor presented event and parade organizer Rebecca Henry who started and then coordinated each of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr celebration events that have occurred in the city.
Alsandor presented Henry with a plaque and designed Monday as Rebecca Henry Day in Opelousas.
Henry’s efforts spanning four decades of saluting the birthday of King also reflected the civil rights leader’s emphasis on service, humility and brotherhood, Alsandor said.
In her speech, Henry reminded the crowd that in order to create change, King taught that it was significant that individuals join together for solutions to occur.
Henry asked those attending the event to be mindful of youths, who sometimes need understanding.
“Let’s not lose our children to the streets. Stop worrying about which womb (children) come out of. You never know until it happens to you,” Henry said.
The annual King celebration events Henry said, were never intended to include a personal agenda. Instead Henry said it was part of a municipal ministry effort,
Ledricka Thierry, elected in November to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, compared King’s journey to that of the Biblicalcal figure Moses, who also never received a glimpse of the Promised Land..
King’s place in American history is somewhat unique,Thierry said, since the profound influence of King was achieved without his election to public office.
“(King) even had doubts as to why he had been chosen for attempting to heal the wounds of a nation,” Thierry added.
Thierry emphasized that King’s doctrine should create for everyone, a course of self-examination that includes asking questions such as “Who am I? What am I? What is my purpose and what is the dream? Am I living the dream?’,” said Thierry.
District 40 State Representative Dustin Miller mentioned that King set the bar of excellence high for those who have followed him.
“It’s hard to measure what we have to do when you measure what (King) did,” said Miller.
Miller said it’s also important for individuals to celebrate successes and understand their self-worth.
Keynote speaker and St. Landry Parish Superintendent Patrick Jenkins explained that it’s possible that individuals can join together and become the dream King envisioned.
King, Jenkins said, stressed “the urgency of now,” meaning it’s important to do the right thing in order that we can become better than we were before.