West St. John marches in honor of Martin Luther King

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Staff Reporter

EDGARD – The West St. John Civic Association had a dream to see River Road become a sea of red and green in celebration of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That dream came true on Monday.

The first annual Dr. Martin Luther King birthday celebration included roughly 500 people young and old, who marched a 1.3 mile stretch from Roland Born Sr. Memorial Library to the Edgard Courthouse, wearing green and red shirts, representing the African Flag, to the sounds of King’s speeches and an assortment of uplifting music.

The jubilant crowd, which grew larger throughout the event as residents left their homes to join the march, sang, cheered and broke out into an impromptu rendition of &#8220We Shall Overcome,” on the last leg of the walk while holding hands and celebrating between lines.

&#8220This is the start of something big,” Rev. Sampson &#8220Skip” Alexander said. Alexander led the fateful protest of more than 2,000 people in Memphis against racial discrimination on April 4, 1968, the day of King’s assassination, and was one of the first people to attend to King.

The march was conceived two months ago by the West St. John Civic Association, who hoped they could inspire kids to know the purpose and reason of MLK, according to Angelle Sterling of the West St. John Civic Association. Judging by the crowd’s overwhelming youth, they succeeded.

&#8220I’ve been to a lot of marches but when I see the youth at this level it’s very promising,” said Maj. Mike Tregre of the St. John Sheriff’s Office. &#8220This is what we need more of.”

Following the march a large crowd gathered in the fire department to listen to songs and speeches in celebration of King. Alexander gave a passionate keynote speech, in which he reminded the crowd to vote, to study hard, treat others well and to never use the n-word.

Antonio Ruffin, a senior at West St. John High School, who had performed King’s &#8220I Have a Dream” speech in school with such success that his teachers asked him to do it at this event, gave a riveting recital to which the crowd erupted in cheers, before sitting down for a moment only to rise again with an encore applause.

The day was a reminder of King’s dedication to racial equality, but Chief Administrative Officer of St. John Parish Natalie Robottom urged the crowd to remember his legacy every day.

&#8220Let all Americans, black and white, live together in harmony,” Robottom said.

The event, which elected officials expect to grow in coming years, included West St. John band members, cheerleaders, flag girls, dance girls and pom-pom girls, and would have likely made King proud.

&#8220It was awesome,” Tyler Lewis, a trumpet player who participated in the march and sophomore at West St. John High School said. &#8220It was nice to get our community to do something nice like that.”

&#8220I think it was a learning experience,” Daylon Feist, a freshman at West St. John High School said. &#8220It bettered my life and I appreciate the long walk.”

&#8220Stand up and congratulate yourself,” Alexander said.