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St. John parade, program honor King

By Susan Stewart / L’Observateur / January 21, 1998

RESERVE – The beat of the drum signaled the parade was about to begin.

All found their places and marched to the tune of “Happy Birthday To You,” a song written by singer Stevie Wonder, and recognized nationallyin honor of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Students from Leon Godchaux Junior High School stepped lively, as themarching band from Glade School played and drill team members from bothschools danced along.

Hundreds of people from the tri-parish area marched as well. The event culminated at the Reserve Housing Development, where speakersaddressed a crowd of approximately 300 people.

Speakers included the host pastor of the march, the Rev. Forell Bering Sr.

of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church in Reserve; State RepresentativesRoy Quezaire and Bobby Faucheux, Lt. Mike Tregre of the St. John Sheriff’sDepartment; Edward Morris, local community activist; and Whitney Joseph,chief deputy of the St. John Parish Assessor’s Office. Each speaker delivered dynamic words of encouragement and motivation.

Quezaire told the crowd that King’s dream has been fulfilled in someaspects but it has also been scorned.Quezaire attributed societal ills like drugs and alcohol abuse as scornersof the dream.

“It’s also scorned because of violence that we inflict upon one another,”he said, adding that crime is a product of negative conditions, and notrace.

He told all assembled that heroes are right among them.”You don’t have to turn on the TV to find your hero,” Quezaire said.Quezaire encouraged everyone to keep the faith that positive changes willhappen.”Just as our ancestors kept the faith as they moved from plantation toplantation with shackles on their hands and feet, God was ever-present intheir hearts and minds,” he said.

Faucheux apologized to the crowd that “more people like me are not heretoday.””Let me apologize for more of my people not realizing all the great thingsMartin Luther King Jr. did and for not being out here with us today to honorhim,” Faucheux said.

He continued: “Today is an American holiday to honor a man who tried tomake equal rights in our country.”Faucheux said prejudice is alive in all forms, not just the color of one’sskin.”As I travel across the country, some people don’t like me because I’m aSoutherner, and because of the way I talk, because to them I have a funnyaccent,” he said.

Faucheux likened King to “the greatest man that ever lived.””Dr. King sacrificed his life for us all, just like Jesus Christ did,” he said.Tregre encouraged the crowd of about 300 people that “one day it’ll be oneof you standing up here.”

He continued: “We have our own Dr. Kings right here in this parish. They’reall around us in everyday life.” Tregre said he often goes to different people he knows just to visit for words of wisdom and knowledge, and cited Chief Deputy Assessor WhitneyJoseph as an encouragement and inspiration to him.

Tregre said he grew up in Reserve and is proud to not only represent thecommunity as a lieutenant with the sheriff’s department, “but my peopleas well.” Joseph said events like one that take place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day should be carried out every day.”We need to pass these traditions down to our children, and alwaysremember Dr. King and never forget the things he’s done to get us thisfar.”

Civil rights activist Edward Morris dared young people to stay on trackwith school and other positive things. He told a story about his nephew who dropped out of school, hung aroundwith the wrong crowd, which landed him not only in jail, but also thehospital, because he was raped by inmates in the jail cell.”Stay in school and get your education,” he stressed. “Make Martin LutherKing and all of us proud of you,” Morris said.Rev. Bering said he was moved by the looks on children’s faces when theLeon Godchaux Junior High band marched through and performed at theReserve Housing Development.”Oh, I tell you, when that marching band came through here, the kids’ eyeslit up, I’ll never forget that. I feel tremendously blessed,” he said,smiling.

Local people likewise commented on the activities: Sarah Keller of Reserve said: “It’s a celebration for recognition of peaceand setting aside a day for peace.”

Mary Henry of LaPlace said the day stands for peace and harmony “becauseMartin Luther King Jr. stood for peace and non-violence,” she said, as she marched alongside the Glade School band in a show of support for hereighth-grade son, who plays drums in the band.

Henry said one way to achieve King’s dream is to support our young people.”It’s so important that we support our children, she called above the beatof the drums.

“Every parent I meet, I tell them to get involved with their children,”Henry said.

Keller also marched with her seventh-grade twins, Roland and RolandaKeller, who play in the band, the baritone and the flute, respectively .

Leon Godchaux Junior High student Shekeda Williams donned her drill teamt-shirt, blue jeans and pom-poms. Between dance routines, which she andthe group performed, Williams said the day signifies something positiveto her.”It means peace and happiness,” she said.

Photos – Marching and playing their instruments in the communitymarch for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., are Glasde School students Alvin Chandler, left, and Zelda Walker.

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