Rain doesn’t stop King holiday

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 17, 2001


RESERVE – The rain didn’t stop the celebration. The band played. The dancers danced. The speakers spoke. There was heart-felt singing, soul-lifting preaching and stepping to a song with a beat. Scripture was read, speeches were given, and an original poem was delivered to an audience of community members. All was presented in remembrance of a man with a dream, and all was for an audience of people who share that dream and who have their own dreams for the future. “Driving the Dream” was this year’s theme for St. John the Baptist Parish’s the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration Monday. The march, scheduled to leave Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church at 10 a.m., was canceled due to inclement weather, but the rain didn’t stop the community from giving tribute to a man who worked hard to begin racial harmony years ago. The ceremony was held inside Our Lady of Grace School. The ceremony was opened by the Rev. Ferdinand Wallace, who began by reading from the scripture and leading the congregation in prayer. Ann Harvey, mistress of ceremony, began by describing the rainy day as an obstacle, then added, “We must press on to celebrate this day.” She introduced many political officials and local ministers, who later each stood before the audience to deliver his individual message. The “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered by Jeremy Fleming, and Shira Ray sang the Black National Anthem. Ashley Lane read the Principles of Nonviolence, 12 rules that keep civility and compassion alive between people. The principles include treating people with dignity, striving toward justice and equality, maintaining the human spirit and practicing forgiveness. St. John Parish President Nickie Monica said to the crowd,” I want to emphasize to the young and old, aim high. Live your dream. Be whatever you want to be in life.” Monica was followed by Sheriff Wayne L. Jones, who acknowledged the 30 off-duty police officers who had come to the event for the march on a volunteer basis. He then gave his thoughts on King. “What he was all about is peace. He wanted equal opportunity for everyone.” Jones shared his philosophy with the crowd. “My simple philosophy is this. Treat everyone with respect. Everyone is an individual. To the young people, your grandparents didn’t have the opportunities you have. You can be whatever you want to be. Everyone has an equal opportunity to achieve.” Superintendent of St. John Parish Schools Chris Donaldson added, “The greatest vehicle to bring the dream about is education. Anybody can take advantage of educational opportunity and use it to bring about more opportunity.” Raymond Campbell delivered an original poem, “A Boy and His Dream.” The Unity “Umoja” Steppers presented “Stepping for Equality,” a stepping routine done in honor of King’s dream, his accomplishments and the future dreams to be realized. St. John Parish Council Chairman Cleveland Farlough said, “We must get beyond the dream and ask ourselves, What are we going to do about it? What am I going to do about it? Am I going to practice love and compassion for everyone?'” He reminded the audience of the second principle of the Principles of Nonviolence: Believing that our lives are linked together, that what we do impacts the lives of others. Therefore, we are responsible for one another. “My challenge to you,” he said, “is What are you going to do about the dream?'” Harvey said the one commonality in all the messages delivered was “to dream.” “Don’t just stop there. Live your dream. You’d be surprised at the outcome,” she said. Others recognized at the ceremony included Ms. Andouille 2000, Valencia Green, the first African American to hold the title, and local black business owners. “We’d like to thank Dr. Martin Luther King for his dream,” said Shelly Ruffin, co-owner of Grannies Creole Cuisine of Louisiana, “because it allowed us to live our dream.” Harvey also recognized The Glade Middle School band for playing indoors after they had planned to march. “They had to play inside at a moment’s notice,” she said. She also thanked Rising Star Baptist Church, which had planned to march but had to remain in the stands instead. The Rev. Forell Bering, one of the directors of the MLK Day march and pastor for Bethlehem Baptist and New Pilgrim Baptist churches in Reserve, wrapped the ceremony up by saying, “It wasn’t just Martin Luther King’s dream. It was the Lord’s dream that all of us would have a level playing field. “It’s not that we are hiding behind racial injustice,” Bering said. “We’re not hiding in the past. You can’t go forward unless you know where you came from. Dr. King was for all men. It’s not a black thing or a white thing. It’s a right thing.”