King dream still unfulfilled

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 20, 2004

By LEONARD GRAY Staff Reporter

HAHNVILLE – “Are we really free?” was the question raised by feature speaker Zelda Coleman Lewis at the annual King Day observance in Hahnville, sponsored by the Martin Luther King Commemorative Organization of St. Charles.

Lewis, a native and resident of St. Rose, emphasized the response was a resounding “No,” so long as young people remain unaware of the sacrifices made on their behalf and fall into the traps of the future, ready to ensnare the unwary.

“Freedom does not come from the outside in, but from the inside out,” Lewis affirmed for her capacity crowd.

Lewis’s remarks capped a day of fellowship, instruction and prayer, beginning with the walk from the West Bank Bridge Park in Luling to the gymnasium at Eual J. Landry Sr. Middle School.

The march was led this year by Minister John White, the associate minister of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Hahnville.

Lewis, who works with her husband, Pastor Horace Lewis, at Word of Liberty Christian Fellowship, was joined by the essay contest winners and the insprational insights of 18-year-old St. Rose resident and Loyola University student Ranika Sanchez.

The top three winners in each age category in the essay contest won trophies and the first-place winners also each won savings bonds.

Ashley Gros, a third-grader at Norco K-3 Elementary, offered these words in her essay:

“My dream would be that we didn’t have any more wars and that people would stop talking behind people’s backs. To solve that problem, I would talk to people when I’m mad and how I feel about them. Just like Martin Luther King Jr., I’ll tell them how I feel because when Martin Luther King Jr. was alive, he told them how he felt. He also was a good man. He made laws right and I’m glad he did that!”

Second place was Steven Kelly, a third-grader at Norco K-3; and third place was Brittany Pianovich, a third-grader at Norco K-3. The winner in the 4-6 grades category, Kiara Green, is a fourth-grader from St. Rose Elementary. An excerpt of her essay follows:

“Dr. King’s dream was to end segregation and violence against any race. The freedom to live where we choose. The freedom and right to gove. The freedom to be educated in the school of our choice.

Dr. King’s dream is alive in all of us. We live the dream every day. I live the dream because I am a little black girl in the South and I ride the school bus with whites because I have the freedom to do so. I can sit in the front or I can choose to sit in the back of the bus.”

Second-place winner was Kiera Marie Lane, a fifth-grader at St. Rose Elementary; and third-place winner was Danielle St. Pierre, a sixth-grader at Norco 4-6 Elementary.

Erica Prevost was the first-place winner in the age 7-8 category, and is a seventh-grader from E.J. Landry Middle School. An excerpt of her entry follows:

“You had a dream but I want you to know that I understand. Because without your dream, the world would’ve fallen apart like dry sand.

You had adream but you didn’t see it come true. You are gone forever and there’s no one who will ever have a dream as real as you.”

Second-place winner was Kira Lennix, an eighth-grader from Hurst Middle School; and third-place was Amanda Rose Chester, a seventh-grader from Hurst Middle.

Finally, Sherri “Shay” Taylor is the high-school winner, and a Destrehan High School junior. Excerpts from her essay follow:

“We sit around and let all the things our ancestors fought for pass us by. Our ancestors have fought for us to sit in the front of the bus, yet we flock to the back because it is cool. We are mad because many slaves were branded to let the owners know who they belonged to. Now, we mark ourselves with numerous tattoos and fill our mouths with large amounts of gold and silver. We know all the lyrics to our favorite songs and all of the latest choreography, but we can’t learn our history or read a book.

“… Dr. King was right, we will never stop until we get our true rights. We will never stop until we are able to walk into a store and not be looked at like we are going to steal. We will not stop until we all live in big houses with fancy cars and nice jobs. We will not stop until we are equal. We will not stop until we are truly free. We have gained so much but we still have far to go.”

Second-place winner was Aaron Larkin, a junior; and the third-place winner was Jennifer Sheppard, also a junior, and both from Destrehan High School.

Also, children and staff of St. Charles Parish Early Head Start entertained the crowd with “This Little Light of Mine” and a Dr. King song. In addition, local entertainer Blanch Newsome Sr. performed “I Believe I Can Fly.”

Some of the audience remembered a quiet time of community within the black population of St. Charles Parish.

“I started working as a cook at 13 years old,” remembered Deborah Bourgeois, 50, of Luling, “but I couldn’t come in the front door.”

She remembered being one of 17 children in her family, “but my mama did her best to raise all of us.”

Her friend, Sydney Turner, 49, remembers a strong sense of family and a quieter, more peaceful Luling.

Yet, she recalled, “It was rough sometimes, but we stuck together.”

The Rev. Horace Lewis of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Boutte likewise pointed out that many black students don’t know their own heritage, and likewise, white students don’t even know about slavery.

“If they don’t know about the past, then they don’t learn anything,” Lewis said.