By Tony Parra
Martin Luther King Jr. said he had a dream that one day “all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing” in the speech he gave on Aug. 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
And on Monday, men and women from different backgrounds and different skin tones joined hands to sing during the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the Memorial Building in Portales. African-Americans of all ages took the time to tell those in the audience what kind of influence Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had on them.
Veda Urioste of Portales Multi-cultural Affairs presented a special award to Oscar Robinson for his dedication in the Multi-cultural affairs and hard work for the last 20 years in bringing the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. to Roosevelt County.
“This (plaque) is in appreciation not of me, but of men like Martin Luther King Jr.,” Robinson said after accepting the award. “Those people are the ones who picked up the mantel and I told myself when I grow up I want to be able to pick up the mantel from them. This honor is not in appreciation of me, but of those who came before me.”
Eastern New Mexico University students, volunteers and members of the ENMU African-American Affairs office also spoke about what Martin Luther King Jr. meant to them.
“He wasn’t just for black America,” Tamika Thomas, ENMU junior, said. “He was for the equality of all people, not just one ethnicity. We are all in the same facility, today, because of Martin Luther King Jr. and others like him.”
ENMU senior Greg Dobbins helped facilitate the activities on Monday morning. Dobbins said it’s not only African-Americans who go through trials and tribulations but members of different races.
“We use today to take time to celebrate unity,” Perisseia Harris, ENMU freshman, said. “We take time to celebrate those who paved the way for us. I’m in higher education and 40 years ago this wouldn’t have been possible.”
ENMU senior Davonda Bowens and ENMU junior Roderick Chambers also talked about the influences Martin Luther King Jr. had on their lives.
“It’s nice to see all the shiny faces come out and celebrate this day,” Bowens said. “I’m overjoyed to see many others celebrate with us.”
The activities in Portales to honor Martin Luther King Jr. kicked off at 10 a.m. on Saturday with a community parade. There was also a talent show at Buchanan Hall at Eastern New Mexico University.
Seven-year old Tia Williams won first place at the talent show and was presented an award on Monday. Yvette Coffman Bell gave the “I Have a Dream Speech” to those in attendance on Saturday.
Urioste presented awards for best floats which were in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade. The Roosevelt County Junior Chamber of Commerce members won the award for best float this year. They also won the award last year.
ENMU students Ashley Porter and DyNesha Johnson volunteered to help with the event. Johnson spent the weekend getting accustomed to a small-community celebration in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Johnson is from Omaha, Neb.
“It was a surprise to me to see how many different people came out,” Johnson said. “People from different backgrounds and age groups came out.”