Plenty to Learn: Communities rally in honor of Dr. King

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, January 18, 2017

LAPLACE — While growing up and living in New Orleans, Trenice Cooper never attended a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march.

Now that she is a teacher in St. John the Baptist Parish, however, Cooper took the opportunity not only to attend the pair of events held Monday in honor of the slain civil rights leader, but also to bring her two sons, Emmanuel, 8, and Paul, 4.

“I’m here to show my kids and let them learn about Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Cooper, who teaches business at West St. John High School. “They’re little, but I want them to have experience about what this means to be in a country where we are equal and not separate.”

Forel Bering Jr. addresses those in attendance Monday in LaPlace.

Forel Bering Jr. addresses those in attendance Monday in LaPlace.

A large contingent of residents, clergy and Parish officials, along with the East St. John High School band and the Diamond Dolls Dance team, made their way Monday down Airline Highway from East St. John Elementary School to New Wine Christian Fellowship, where the annual holiday program was held.

This year’s event was moved from the Percy Hebert Building because of construction at the government offices.

In welcoming the crowd to the East Bank event, themed “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” Bernadine Sanders urged residents to be thankful for the right to march peaceafully and without fear, unlike previous generations.

Damon Davis, who read a brief history of the 23-year-old march, urged attendees to remember those known and unknown who came before them and worked for freedom and equal rights.

Keynote speaker Forel Bering Jr., the son of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church pastor Forel Bering Sr., spoke about how God had changed his path in life.

Later in the afternoon, the annual West Bank march took place.

The West Bank Civic Association hosted the march and rally that concluded with a ceremony at West St. John Elementary.

Civic Association President Charmaine Roybiskie said many focused on the theme: The fierce urgency of now: Are we losing the gains that we made?

Featured speakers Leroy Mitchell Sr., former school board member, and Andreanecia M. Morris, HousingNOLA executive director and Edgard native, addressed topics relating to the theme.

Roybiskie said youth participants were “awesome.”

“I think, especially after (Monday), you are going to see a number of them who are going to look more into what is happening and try to, at least, become involved,” Roybiskie said. “It was the elementary kids that were so focused on everything that they did. There is that hope they are beginning to see what needs to be done.”

Students led the event through musical selections, poetry performances, poster contests and liturgical and African dances.

Gelene Dixon-Dillard of LaPlace also made her way to New Wine Christian Fellowship to watch the march.
“I came to watch and support it and to attend the rally,” she said. “At this time with so much going on in the world today, we have a continued fight. I am definitely worried about our future, but it is a bright future because we have a lot of young people coming up at this time and I think we have good people who are still supporting the cause.”

One of those youngsters is 12-year-old Gabrielle Thomas of New Orleans, who attended with her aunt.

“It’s important because we’re supposed to help each other be together,” she said. “We’re supposed to stay united because we are good together and we can make change together.”