Local News History

Speaker Imagines What MLK Would Say Today About Opelousas

BOBBY ARDOIN Editor/Consulting Writer

What would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. write if he addressed a letter to contemporary Opelousas?

Preston Castille referenced the potential issues King might have discussed with Opelousas residents during a Monday afternoon keynote address at Holy Ghost Catholic Church.

The speech by Castille highlighted a program that included music and presentations by Opelousas Mayor Julius Alsandor, businessman Pat Fontenot and St. Landry Parish School Superintendent Milton Batiste III.

Castille, recently reelected to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, imagined whether King could have the same concerns now that he did 55 years ago on the eve of his death.

Perhaps Castille said, King might ask those in Opelousas if the city’s children are safer, free from crime, broken homes and poverty or whether they are more prepared to compete with others for a place in the global economy than they were in 1967.

Many of those assembled for the 42nd consecutive MLK Day parade and program, seemed to agree that there are still questions to be answered about the progress made in Opelousas for those issues Castille could have projected in the imaginary letter.

King, Castille added, might have been pleased that St. Landry and Opelousas have succeeded since the 1960’s in eliminating institutionalized barriers that once prevented Blacks from holding prominent local officers.

Castille reminded his audience that King would probably be “excited” that Opelousas has had a succession of Black mayors, numerous Black school board and Board of Aldermen members,  Black school superintendents and represented on the State Board of Education.

However Castille warned that if King is watching the situation in Opelousas, that King might still have reservations about perceived progress.

“As (Blacks) have achieved more political power, many of them still don’t own and control many new businesses. How are our children? Are they still living in poverty or in substandard housing? Are drugs destroying our children? Are they  prepared to compete with all races in the market places?” Castille asked.

Castille, who grew up in St. Landry, also referenced the idealism of Father Albert McKnight, who formerly emphasized personal responsibility and accountability to congregants in the communities where McKnight preached.

McKnight Castille said the persons most responsible for saving (Blacks) are themselves. He said that you are the ones ensured for saving our children. Father McKnight always said that if something is done, then It will always start with me,

That accountability that McKnight embraced Castille said, will only occur if people hold each other accountable, grow strong families and strive to reduce problems such as mental health and non-violence.

King also might have told Opelousans on Monday that the real enemy facing them is the enemy that exists within themselves, Castille pointed out.

Mayor Julius Alsandor and Rebecca Henry