By Trent Brown
Grambling State University Media Bureau
The Union Parish community will remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the late Nobel Peace Prize-winning civil rights leader with its first memorial celebration Saturday.
Grambling State University President Frank G. Pogue will be the keynote speaker. Parish officials declared Jan.19, and each Saturday before the 3rd Monday in January in future years, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Farmerville and in Union Parish.
According to Willie Payne, this event is long overdue.
“It came about after conversation with myself and Reverend Willie Simmons and I told him, ‘Look, let’s make this happen,’” Payne, chairman of the Union Parish MLK Planning Committee, said about a chat with Simmons, pastor of Mount Union Baptist in Marion, La.
Each year Payne participates in the Lincoln Parish MLK march and celebration and he would wonder why Union Parish doesn’t have its own King celebration. The Farmerville resident said he realized someone had to get it going.
“After the light clicked on last year, we formed a diverse committee and from that day on, we worked extremely hard to bring this special program to people,” said Payne, a retired police officer and former mayor of Pontiac, Mich. “Though his death took place over 50 years ago, it remains important for residents and people to learn about (him).”
Payne said members of the community, local business people and organizations are invited to participate in the free celebration. He said the committee chose Pogue as “the clear favorite” to deliver the first keynote address about the celebration’s theme, “Legacy through Me.”
“The fact he is a qualified lecturer and served as president at several institutions of higher learning was a plus,” explained Payne. “He understands the importance of continuing the legacy of Dr. King.”
Farmerville Mayor M. Stein Baughman Jr. meet and greet the crowd before the opening reading of the parish proclamation at 9 a.m. in front of the Union Parish Courthouse, 100 West Bayou Street in Farmerville. Zion Hill Baptist Church’s pastor, the Rev. Tommy Carr, and the pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmerville, the Rev. Kurt Auger, will pray for peace and unity. The national anthem will be played by the Farmerville High School marching band and the colors will be posted by ROTC from Carroll High School.
After those program segments, the committee has planned a Unity March down Martin Luther King Drive to the Willie Davis Jr. Recreation Center, 116 Cox Ferry Rd. At the center, thanks to some corporate sponsors, participants can enjoy hot jambalaya and observe a talent group act out dramatic narration’s of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” The event ends at 1:30p.m.
The sponsors include Coca Cola Foster Farms, Union Trust bank, First National Trust Bank, Brookshire’s and the Union Parish Police Jury. Other than Payne and Simmons, other organizers include Kristy Auger, Rebecca Andrews, Mary Barrios, Stan Elkins, Muriel Finley and Verdel Ventroy.
Payne said the committee has had numerous inquiries and thank you’s, “not just around Grambling, but around Lincoln Parish and the Shreveport area. Everyone can be involved and we are excited.”
“The goal was to bring the strength of diversity to Lincoln Parish,” added Payne. “We just organized it the best we could.”