St. John gatherings celebrate the dream
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 22, 2014
By MONIQUE ROTH
LAPLACE – Celebrations were held Monday on both sides of the river in St. John the Baptist Parish to honor and commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
This year marked the 29th anniversary of the federal holiday honoring Dr. King’s birthday and his advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world.
In LaPlace, a march proceeding up Belle Pointe Boulevard and down Airline Highway to the Percy Hebert Building took place starting at 9 a.m..
A rally at the Percy Hebert Building immediately followed the march. The theme for the event was “Embracing the Dream.”
A performance by the Our Lady of Grace Church Choir brought members of the crowd to their feet as they sang, and Parish President Natalie Robottom served as the keynote speaker at the program.
Robottom urged rally attendees to use King’s life of service as an example to model their own life after and spoke on the importance of using King’s non-violent approach to resolving conflicts.
“This past year has been very difficult for many families with a record number of murders in our small parish,” Robottom said. “This senseless killing has to stop. We are wasting generations of young black males to death or prison. This was not the dream Dr. King had in mind, and it is definitely not my dream as the mother of a young African-American male.”
The LaPlace rally also recognized six community members as 2014 MLK Honorees.
The first honoree was Rev. Donald Ray August Sr., pastor of Rising Star Baptist Church in LaPlace, who was among the first group of black students to integrate John L. Ory Elementary School. St. John Assessor Whitney Joseph Jr., who presented the awards, said that August is “helping to lead St. John Parish in the right direction.”
Debra Bartley, president of the St. James Parish NAACP, was honored for her service to the community and her continued support of local public schools.
Eliza Eugene, who designed a diversion program for at-risk youth, was honored for her service to the community that she manages through several avenues including her mentoring programs and scholarship services.
Also awarded at the ceremony was Sterling Simon. Currently the treasurer for the St. John Council on Aging, Sterling worked in the public school system for 37 years as a teacher and principal. He continues to serve on numerous boards and organizations.
Sheriff Mike Tregre was honored for his professional accomplishments, as was Richard Wolfe, who has served the community in numerous capacities for over 35 years.
The West St. John Civic Association al so held its seventh annual Martin Luther King Jr. March and rally on Monday. The march began at noon at the Roland Borne Sr. Memorial Library and ended at the West Bank Community Center, where a ceremony took place.
U.S. Sen. Cedric Rich mond was featured as a guest speaker at the ceremony.
The theme of this year’s program was “Dr. King’s Legacy – Equality, Peace, and Service: Where Are We Today?”
Richmond spoke about King’s life and all of the accomplishments that he achieved in a short time, pointing out King died when he was just 39.
“We can start early and change the world like he did,” said Richmond, as he encouraged the younger generations present at the rally to get involved in community affairs.
Richmond said that Jan. 20 shouldn’t just be a day to remember King’s birthday but that “we should celebrate him because of his courage, sacrifice, and commitment to pursue his dream.”
Hillary Bossier and Dray Joseph, both star athletes born locally, were official honorees at this year’s west bank ceremony, and Whitney Jasmine, a longtime Edgard resident and former constable, served as grand marshal.
To close the ceremony, Chermaine Roy biskie, the president of the West St. John Civic Association, urged members of the community to join the association’s efforts to make life better for members of the west bank.