Parades, host of events lead up to MLK Day

Youth, societal woes and Nelson Mandela are on the minds of those committed to ensuring communities continue to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

And celebrations are just what’s on tap in the days ahead: a host of parades and programs across south Louisiana leading up to the national observance Monday.

Lafayette, which is considered the flagship of area MLK celebrations, has a three-day event planned. Its theme emphasizes the need to implement changes: “Living the Dream: Let’s Make It Happen.”

The focus should always accent the positive, said Gerald Boudreaux, chairperson of the MLK Jr. Holiday Committee, which sponsors the event.

“Let’s make it happen — let the dream live in each of us, in our culture, in our community,” Boudreaux said.

Lafayette festivities kick off with the MLK Youth Pageant at 4 p.m. Saturday at the MLK Recreation Center. At 3 p.m. Sunday, the King Holiday Parade will be held. The parade marshal is 15th Judicial District Judge Ed Rubin. A musical extravaganza will follow the parade at 4 p.m. at the MLK Recreation Center.

At 8:30 a.m. Monday, Lafayette festivities resume with a flag-raising ceremony at the MLK Recreation Center, followed by opening activities and a prayer breakfast at 8:45 a.m. Also on tap, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., are education/cultural activities for youth. In addition, there will be health screenings, booths and exhibitions.

Nelson Mandela, the late South African leader, will be remembered during the festivities.

“It is a great testament to remember the life of Nelson Mandela. The forgiveness that Mandela demonstrated in his life allows all of us to live the dream,” Boudreaux said.

The Community Luncheon, scheduled Monday from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the MLK Center, will include reflections from Rubin. Boudreaux said the committee also plans to honor Bryson Bernard, who’s known as Cupid, for “his initiative and leadership and contributions.”

The guest speaker for Monday’s 6 p.m. program is state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans.

“She’s very outspoken and a leader in the state Senate,” Boudreaux said. “She’s been a warrior for the community. She has the same principles and values Dr. King stood up and fought for. She’s following in his footsteps.”

Other commemorations in Acadiana include:

Eunice

“Renewing Our Mutual Promise: How Wonderful It Is; How Pleasant for God’s People to Live in Harmony” is the theme when Eunice celebrates its two-day citywide event, which kicks off with an interdenominational breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday. Ministers from across the community are expected to fellowship at the Bishop Ceasar Center on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive.

The speaker for the event is the Rev. Darren Eldridge of the St. Mathilda Catholic Church.

“It is important — the celebration — so we can remember why Dr. King went the route that he did: working for equality for people in the United States,” said Ardessie Francois, who’s been involved in organizing the event for more than 20 years.

For Francois, King stressed the importance of equality, and that importance must be transferred to today’s youth.

“He saw so many injustices, and he knew that God did not want our people to be treated in such an inhuman way,” Francois said. “He wanted everybody to be treated in a civil, humane way and fairly.”

Festivities will continue on Sunday with a 2 p.m. parade, beginning at Eunice City Hall and ending at the Southeast Neighborhood Center on City Street, where program activities will follow. The speaker for the celebration is Pastor Caleb Semien of Word Ministries.

New Iberia

The Martin Luther King Center in the West End Park is the location for the New Iberia celebration, which begins at 1 p.m. Monday with a program that includes video presentations, speakers and refreshments.

Its theme is “Celebrating A King: Iberia Parish Is Turned Up.” Iberia branch NAACP President Geri Brown said the theme means, particularly the slang “turned up,” that Iberia Parish is ready to make things happen. And that means ensuring that King’s death was not in vain.

“He tried to solve things with peace and not violence, and that’s what we — the NAACP — do,” Brown said. “There’s too much violence, too much robbery; children are too much on the streets by themselves.”

Festivities, cosponsored by AYTOI, include a positive learning experience.

“Trouble is so easy to get in and so hard to get out of,” Brown said.

Opelousas

The 32nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and Memoriam, themed “Realizing King’s Dream in the ‘Fierce Urgency of Now,’ ” kicks off at 1 p.m. Monday with a parade. It is followed by a program, beginning at the South City Park and ending at Holy Ghost Catholic Church.

“As we celebrate Dr. King’s birth, life and dream, what are our dreams in life for a better world?” asked founder Rebecca D. Henry. “How are we going to face the challenges that still plague us today, such as homelessness, poverty, violence and injustice?”

The parade marshal is Doris Barrow. Keynote speaker is Dr. Derek Metoyer. The event includes dance performances, musical selections and tributes, including one to Mandela, whom Henry says symbolizes perseverance.

“We will pay tribute to a man who had a hard road to travel, being imprisoned,” Henry said about Mandela, “and yet upon his release, he still lived the amount of years he was in prison to where he started.”

Rayne

Monday is also the observance of Rayne’s celebration, which kicks off at 8:30 a.m. at the Depot Square and ends with a march to Rayne Civic Center at 9:30 a.m. A health fair will get under way, providing health screenings, including ones on diabetes and high blood pressure.

Dianne Granger, president of the National Association of University Women’s Rayne Branch, which sponsors the event, said there is a great need to focus on health.

“We have such a problem with obesity,” she said. “We want to make people more aware of the benefits of eating right and properly, and getting their annual checkup.”

The day’s theme is “Citizenship and Service in Action.” During the program, which follows at 11 a.m., there will be essays, as well as coloring book and poster contests. Guest speaker for event is local TV news anchor Marcelle Fontenot.