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Victoria celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Video)

By BY ALLISON MILES - AMILES@VICAD.COM
Jan. 21, 2013 at 7:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 20, 2013 at 7:21 p.m.

Marchers walk down Crestwood Street for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration that began at Victory Christian Life Center and ended at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Victoria.

Martin Luther King, Jr., a timeline:

• Jan. 15, 1929: Born in Atlanta, Ga.

• 1944: Graduates from Booker T. Washington High School, admitted to Morehouse College at age 15.

• 1948: Graduates from Morehouse College, enters Crozer Theological Seminary. Ordained to Baptist ministry at age 19.

• 1953: Marries Coretta Scott, settles in Montgomery, Ala.

• June 5, 1955: Receives doctorate of philosophy in systematic theology from Boston University.

• Dec. 1, 1955: Rosa Parks arrested, leading King to join bus boycott.

• Dec. 5, 1955: Becomes president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, making him the boycott's official spokesman.

• 1957: Forms the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Organization's aim was to fight segregation and gain civil rights.

• 1958: Stabbed and nearly killed in Harlem during a speaking tour.

• 1960: Arrested during a sit-in waiting to be seated at a restaurant.

• November 1961: Interstate Commerce Commission bans segregation in interstate travel. Decision comes from work by King and the Freedom Riders.

• July 27, 1962: Arrested and jailed after an unsuccessful movement in Albany, Ga.

• April 12, 1963: Arrested with Ralph Abernathy for demonstrating without a permit. Writes now-famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail" during his 11-day stay.

• June 23, 1963: Leads 125,000 people on a Freedom Walk in Detroit.

• Aug. 28, 1963: The March on Washington is the largest civil rights demonstration in history. Here, King makes his "I Have a Dream" speech.

• Jan. 3, 1964: Named "Time" magazine Man of the Year.

• Dec. 10, 1964: Awarded the Nobel Prize at age 35.

• Feb. 2, 1965: Arrested in Selma, Ala., during a voting rights demonstration.

• June 1966: March Against Fear Through the South takes place.

• April 4, 1968: Fatally shot on the balcony of Memphis, Tenn.'s Lorraine Motel.

• April 9, 1968: King's funeral.

• Nov. 2, 1986: National holiday named in King's honor.

Source: Louisiana State University website

A water fountain is just a water fountain to Joyce Tyrone, and it always has been. The retired Victoria teacher doesn't recall a time when she and her white counterparts were forced to drink from different ones.

"I don't remember the segregated bathrooms, and I was always able to go into any store anybody else could," she said. "I do remember having to sit upstairs when we went to the movies, but really that's it."

As a young child in the 1970s, she said much of those struggles came before her time. Still, it didn't stop her from looking back at how far things have come.

Tyrone was among those who attended the Old Landmark Committee's Martin Luther King Jr. Day walk and celebration Monday.

Now in its 20th year, the annual event is a chance to look back on the strides and sacrifices King made for equality, said Dorothy Cunningham, the program coordinator.

"He had a dream," she said with a smile at the children gathering for the walk. "We might be different colors, but inside, we're all the same."

Monday's celebration included a walk from Victoria's Victory Christian Life Center to Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, gospel groups, speeches by area officials and more.

Sandra Avery, founder and president of the Old Landmark Committee, said she wanted to get youth involved. Not only is it a way to keep children on the right path and out of trouble, but it also helps pass on a better understanding of past events.

Camille Boone, an eighth-grader at Stroman Middle School, said she has taken part in area Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations for as long as she can remember - and probably since before she could walk. The 14-year-old said it means a lot to know she is honoring a man who did so much.

"He helped us get equal rights," she said as she stood among family and friends. "I like knowing how we got from worse to better. It's important."

Victoria attorney G.P. "Geep" Hardy said he took pride in knowing that, as he stepped behind the lectern to discuss King, President Barack Obama was being sworn in to his second term in office. Obama's presidency, he said, was surely part of King's dream.

The president has acted in the best interest of all Americans, Hardy said, in the face of vicious attacks like those King suffered. Much of the vehemence Obama faces comes because the color of his skin, he said.

"We never reached the point where there is complete equality and equal justice for all," he said. "But we try. We work. We continue our effort."

Victoria Mayor Will Armstrong said he remembers the days of segregation in Victoria, when bus station restrooms displayed "white only" signs, and area banks had college-educated men operating elevators. The city has come a long way, he said, but the work isn't over yet.

"My message to you - and it's a short message - but my message is, 'The best is yet to come,'" Armstrong said.

Tyrone agreed.

She said she had seen progress even in recent decades, in terms of equality in the workplace and in obtaining housing.

It's encouraging, she said, but it's always important to look back.

"That's why I come out here," she said. "I want to remember the past and the struggles we had to go through to be where we are."

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