Added significance attached to this year’s MLK marches

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 22, 2009

Staff reporter

HAHNVILLE – Under bright sunny skies and mild temperatures, River Parishes area residents gathered to keep a dream alive and celebrate a new dream that is just beginning.

From Hahnville to Edgard, residents came out in droves for marches to celebrate the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., but there was also another man on the minds of most in attendance Monday. Scattered among the posters and t-shirts portraying King were shirts, signs, hats and pins displaying the name and face of Barack Obama, our nation’s first African-American president. Many at the rally see Obama as proof that King’s dream is still alive and well.

“This day certainly takes on new meaning for all of us,” said Celestine P. Williams, secretary of the Martin Luther King Commemorative Organization of St. Charles Parish. “We are always proud to honor King, but this adds a bit more spice to the celebration.”

Williams said the commemorative organization began in 1984, when a small group of residents came together to, as she put it, “keep the dream alive.” She said Monday’s march seemed smaller than usual, but for a very important reason.

“I know a lot of people who made the trip to Washington to see the inauguration live,” said Williams. “A lot of us wanted to see it play out.”

About 100 people participated in the three-mile walk from the West Bank Bridge Park at the foot of the Hale Boggs Bridge to the St. Charles Courthouse in Hahnville. Along the way, the group sang various hymns, some anthems of the civil rights movement, with power and energy. Between songs, Williams, riding in the bed of a red pick up truck adorned with numerous signs, shouted messages to the crowd.

“I know Martin is smiling today,” said Williams. “We must come together and pray for all our children and ask that our young men pull their pants up and keep going. Look at the jailhouse and just keep going. Say to yourself ‘No, not me!’”

At the conclusion of the march, residents were treated to various speakers and essay readings from school children. The program ended with a singing of “We Shall Overcome.”

Meanwhile in St. John, groups of marchers wore red and green shirts adorned with portraits of King and Obama. Above the two faces were the words “I have a dream” and “I am the dream,” symbolizing the momentous connection of the two men. The march in St. John began at the Roland Borne Sr. Memorial Library and ended at the St. John Parish Courthouse.