Saturday, January 18, 2014

Paving the way: Residents remember MLK legacy during Longview celebration

Article by Reese Gordon
Jai'da Talley, 5, left, and Kimora Talley, 7, right, both of
Longview watch the Martin Luther King Jr. parade Saturday in Longview.
See more photos from Saturday’s parade and community celebration at
View article at the Longview News Journal Webpage.

Christy Warren said she wouldn’t be what she is today without the help of Martin Luther King Jr.

Warren, now an author, was one of hundreds who attended the annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade and celebration Saturday.

“I never really thought I would be doing this,” she said. “This is a gift from God, and I think about people like Martin Luther King and everybody who paved the way. There was a time when people weren’t even supposed to read, let alone write, self-publish and create. So I think it’s absolutely remarkable that somebody paved the way for me to do what I’m doing.”

Benny Williams and his wife, Laura, said Saturday’s parade was the third they have attended in recent years.

The couple watched as members of the Longview police and fire departments led the cavalcade of vehicles down Ryder Street, the sound of sirens ringing out.

Williams said he thinks relationships between all groups of people in Longview are better than ever before.

“I’ve been here since 1984, and things have changed,” he said. “People associate together a lot more than they used to. The younger generation doesn’t see color. They see people.”

Part of the reason why younger generations are less concerned with race, Williams said, is because they don’t remember the tension and conflict during the civil rights movement.

“I started going to an integrated school in 1955,” he said. “I never experienced separate restrooms or anything like that, but my dad did, and he used to tell me about it. But I tell my grandkids that just because a person is a different skin color than you, you still treat them the way they want to be treated.”

Longview Mayor Jay Dean and Councilwoman Kasha Williams were involved with the MLK Day parade and celebration.

Dean said this year’s parade had more participation than normal, but he hopes that future parades will involve the entire Longview community.

“This has traditionally been a local, south side of Longview event,” he said.

“And that’s a shame because it is typically well orchestrated and the meaning is significant.”

The celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Dean said, is about more than breaking down racial barriers in society.

“Martin Luther King was not one to make his movement about race,” he said. “I think there is still a lot of misunderstanding. (King) did a lot of good things, and he did them in the right way.”

Ernest Henson, 59, said he has been coming to the MLK parade and celebration for as long as he can remember.

“This is about remembrance,” he said.

“We still have work to do, but we’ve come a long way. If it wasn’t for Martin Luther King, I don’t know where we’d be.”

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