St. Charles King Day event held in Hahnville

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Staff Reporter

HAHNVILLE – Sunny skies belied the frigid air during the 15th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. annual parade and program on Monday.

The four-hour event, which included the traditional pilgrimage along River Road, culminated with a presentation by St. Charles Parish Councilman Desmond J. Hilaire in the Eual J. Landry Middle School.

The school is located across the street from the St. Charles Courthouse, where the march ended.

Sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Organization of St. Charles Parish, the parade included more than 50 people of all ages and races.

Last year’s event also saw temperatures hanging around the 40-degree mark. But, also similar to last year, that didn’t stop the locals and visitors from enjoying the traditional parade and program.

Although the parade route wasn’t lined with the same amount of people that the Mardi Gras parades usually see, the sentiments of those following in their cars or waiting at the end of the line were, nevertheless, very sincere.

Shelia Toney and her daughter Paula Gillard arrived at Landry Middle School before the parade ended. They had come to honor King and also to watch Toney’s nephew, Lywood Walker Jr., receive an award.

Walker’s essay, “What Martin Luther King Jr. Means To Me” won first place honors in the 9- through 12-grade division of the St. Charles Schools. He is a 12th-grader at Hahnville High School.

Along with three other first-place winners from the lower grades, he read his essay to the audience during the program.

Herb Gilliam of St. Rose watched many of his friends march in the parade.

“It’s very cold so we don’t see a lot of people out here, but there are some following in their cars,” he said, as he waited for the group to round the bend on the last leg of their trip. “It’s important that we do this every year. We have to follow Mr. King’s legacy. That’s what this is all about – freedom.”

Hilaire reiterated many of King’s goals and ideals when he opened the program at the middle school. “We must march ahead. We can’t turn back,” he said. “We shall overcome the trials and tribulations of yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

About 300 people gathered in the school’s gymnasium for the festivities. In addition to talks by public officials, MLK essay winners from four grade levels were recognized and given trophies; songs were presented by soloists Blanche Newsome, Marilyn Jackson and Stacy J. Matthews; and a dance routine was performed by the Kappa Phi Gamma Sisterhood of Hahnville High School.

President of the MLK Organization Margaret Marshall, along with her committee, offered refreshments during the program. Marshall also gave an inspirational piece of advice regarding the importance of focusing on the traditional MLK parade program.

“If we follow Mr. King’s examples through prayer, we can achieve anything,” she said.

The parade’s Grand Marshall Percy Wilson also believes ‘The Dream’ can stay alive with perseverance.

“We need to remember that we are here to commemorate Dr. King’s contribution for global peace,” he said. “His legacy of getting along with everybody is so important.” He added that getting the next generation (children) involved in King’s dreams is the key to success.

St. Charles Councilmember Ganesier Ramchandran echoed Wilson’s comments. “Knowledge is freedom,” he told the audience. “To the children I have something to say: ‘Stay in school, study, emancipate yourself.'”

Hilaire ended the program with comments regarding the ‘passage of the torch’ to the younger generation. “The torch is lit, the flame is burning,” he said. “Our young people must look closely at Martin Luther King’s dream. They must embrace it. Do not let the dream die.”