City celebrates MLK during 18th annual parade, program

Jan. 17, 2011 at 7:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 17, 2011 at 7:18 p.m.

Joyce Snell is moved by the Rev. Morris Kamire, of Keyna, during his speech celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Victoria. Several hundred people crowded into Webster Chapel Methodist Church for the observance.

Joyce Snell is moved by the Rev. Morris Kamire, of Keyna, during his speech celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Victoria. Several hundred people crowded into Webster Chapel Methodist Church for the observance.

It has been six years since Sandra Avery last marched in the Victoria Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.

At 68, Avery's age and health prevent her from making the nearly half-mile trek.

However, she does not let it stop her from attending the celebratory program held afterward.

Dressed in her Sunday best - a black suit embroidered with purple flowers - Avery watched happily as marchers of all races flowed into the sanctuary of Webster Chapel United Methodist Church on Monday morning singing the last chorus of "Lay my Burden Down."

"I thank God that He has given me the strength and the power to still be here," said Avery, who as president and founder of the Old Landmark Committee, has helped to coordinate the MLK Day parade and program for the past 18 years. "I'll keep doing it as long as I'm able."

"Do we still have adrenaline or are we tailgating off the dream?," said 69-year-old Landmark Committee member Dorothy Cunningham as she addressed program attendees. "Are we doing anything better? Are we letting God lead us?"

The packed sanctuary continued to take introspective looks into themselves as preachers from churches in Victoria and the surrounding counties stepped up to the pulpit to deliver sermons, many of which spoke about King's lasting legacy.

"This last election, there was a large turnout," said The Rev. Johnny Todd of Port Lavaca's Cornerstone Church. "This speaks to me about some of the ongoing efforts of Dr. King."

"We need to educate ourselves and be courteous to others," said The Rev. Kevin VanHook, pastor of St. Peter's Missionary Baptist Church. "We want to leave with an impact. We want to leave an impression."

Sermons also focused on preparing the youth to pick up King's torch of fighting for equality.

"Dr. King had a dream. He dreamed of a revolution. A revolution that does not begin in social programs, but in the home," said Todd. "The training doesn't come in college. It is not up to the school teachers. It starts with the parents."

He added, "This celebration is something all the youth should be a part of and participate in so they can learn from the teachings of Dr. King on how to progress and settle things peacefully."

Training tomorrow's youth is a message Avery agreed with.

"We're going to be held accountable for our youth whether they are ours legitimately or not," said Avery. "We have to let them know they are somebody."

Program attendees were entertained by performances from praise dancers from both St. Peters Baptist Church and Mt. Nebo Baptist Church as well as singing from the Rockport-based gospel group Heart, Body and Soul and Old Landmark Committee member Dwain Harbers.

Christie Prince expressed her feelings on the day's events.

"I feel like it's important for me to show my children how things have changed for people of color," said 32-year-old Prince, who marched in the parade and attended the program. "I feel indebted to the older generations that what they couldn't do, I can do now."

Prince, who works as a licensed vocational nurse, said she hoped her two daughters would not only be inspired by King's story, but also the stories of many of the other program attendees.

"I just saw Ms. Dorothy Harris, who was the first black nurse in Victoria. It's important for (my daughters) to know that is what Mama looks up to. Black nurses today didn't just happen. It started with someone else.

Talking to Mykaela, Christie Prince's 10-year-old daughter, it is a lesson that she seemingly learned.

"I enjoyed the parade because it represents Martin Luther King Jr. I learned that he's important to black history month," said Mykaela Prince. "If he didn't say anything, then we wouldn't be able to go to the schools that we want to go to."

Although many agreed race relations have come a long way from the tumultuous days of the Civil Rights Movement, they agreed that there is still a long way to go.

"It's coming about slowly, but surely, but it has improved," said Avery.



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