Rallies, speeches remember King in River Region

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — St. John the Baptist Parish kept the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. alive on Monday, after a march from East St. John High School to the Percy D. Hebert Building in LaPlace.

One of the moving speakers was Judge Melbin Zeno, who told stories about when he was younger, and the struggles his life presented to him.

&#8220I remember when I was young and people would tell me and my brothers we were no good, and we would never be anything,” he said. &#8220We would go to school with holes in our shoes. Sometimes my momma would use cardboard to keep up the soles in them. There were holes in my clothes, but no matter what others said to us, we looked to God for help.”

Zeno said he and his two older brothers all graduated from college, despite all the things that were said about them.

He also said it is important to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and that because of him he and others are able to live free in this country, but problems still exist.

&#8220We are still in the struggle,” he said. &#8220We are still fighting the battle that Martin Luther King Jr. battled, but if we look to God for help, we will make it.”

Several students in St. John Parish entered the Dr. Martin Luther King Essay Contest, and only seven won. The winners were recognized at the event and read their essays aloud to the crowd. The winners were Whitney Jackson, 10th grade East St. John High School, Aluinee Varmall, fourth grade East St. John Elementary School, Tia Roussell, seventh grade West. St. John Elementary School, Darae Taylor, third grade Lake Pontchartrain Elementary, Asia Thomas, fifth grade LPE, Hannah Williams, third grade LaPlace Elementary School and Koi Duhe, fourth grade Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet School.

As the crowd listened to the speeches comments were made about why they think this day is so important and why it is important to keep it alive year after year. These were some of the comments:

&#8220I think it is important, because Martin Luther King Jr. not only changed the lives of black people, but whites, Mexican-Americans. All races and the rights of everyone,” said Courtney Christy, 14, St. Charles Catholic.

&#8220Because Martin Luther King made it to so that black people could go to school with white people. We need to celebrate and keep the legacy going on,” said Joshua Smith, 13, Lutcher High School.

&#8220It’s about being free. It’s a freedom march. That’s what it is all about Freedom,” said Solomon Joseph, LaPlace.

Last, but not least Jacqueline Cooper Mattos of Gramercy recalled why this day is important.

&#8220It’s a great thing,” she said. &#8220It’s about the struggle. I am a young woman, and I remember as a little girl, not quite understanding what this was all about, but as I grew older, I understood the advantages that we have now, and all black people should participate in this, because if it weren’t for Dr. King and others we would not be here today. We would not be able to have the positions we have today.”

Mattos said her grandfather and her father both worked at Colonial Sugars, which happens to be her current place of employment. She said her mother would always tell her, &#8220if your father were here, he would be so proud.” She said she never understood why, until now.

&#8220I am the first black woman to be in supervision there,” she said. &#8220It is such a blessing to be able to be in this position, and my father would be proud, because I was recognized, and I proved that we can do these things and we are smart enough. God had a plan and a blessing for me, and now I understand, and I am grateful.”