Portales residents remember King, message

By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, but his vision continues to live on and on Monday African-Americans living in Portales took the time to remember what Martin Luther King Jr. had envisioned for everybody living in the United States, irregardless of the color of their skin.

“To me it’s a day of education and learning,” Fred Arnold of Portales said. “A day for reviewing the progress we have made. But there’s more (progress) to go.”

Oscar Robinson, who was recently selected as chairman of the multicultural affairs committee of the city of Portales, said committee members are already brainstorming for a program in Portales in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day for next year.

Robinson said African-Americans have made progress and that Martin Luther King Jr. had such an influence on him that he decided to join the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the same fraternity Martin Luther King Jr. was a member of.

“As a young man growing up in Oklahoma, we (high school students) heard him speak,” Robinson said. Robinson said Martin Luther King Jr. was 12 years older than he. “He was a young man we looked up to. My grandmother told me there was something special about him.”

Robinson said Martin Luther King Jr. had a vision of equality, not just for African-Americans, but for Native-Americans, Hispanics and caucasians regardless of their social classes.

Robinson said multi-cultural affairs members are looking into the possibility of having a junior high basketball tournament the Saturday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He said are also interested in having lock-in festivities which would educate the Portales youth on the history of the civil rights leader.

According to Robinson, another possibility is to have a panel discussion on Martin Luther King Jr. Day about Caucasians, African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans and obstacles and issues each group is facing. He said the committee members will look into inviting the Eastern New Mexico University and Portales High School choirs to sing at the festivities.

Arnold said despite the progress the country has made in civil rights there is one aspect which bothers him.

“The saddest part as an American is that with the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, we have lost some of our religious roots that keep us grounded,” Arnold said. “His civil rights movement was religious-based.”

Arnold said he has been blessed to have the opportunity to serve as a municipal judge, but sees some areas in the United States which are still lacking in equality. Arnold said higher-level positions in the judicial systems and in the corporate world are not diverse and lacking in minority representation. He said nonetheless African-Americans must continue to remain positive.