By Mickey Winfield: PNT Staff Writer
In late August 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
More than 44 years later and nearly 2,000 miles away, more than 80 Portales residents celebrated the slain civil rights leader’s birthday Monday morning with a march across town.
The trek in honor of the 1965 march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala., began at a tree dedicated to King’s memory on the campus of Eastern New Mexico University — near the water fountain in the middle of campus — and continued to the Portales Memorial Building several miles away.
Eastern New Mexico University English professor Patrice Caldwell explained why it was important for her to participate.
“The campus has always been very supportive of Martin Luther King Jr.,” Caldwell said. “I think the march is a wonderful way of bringing the community together for this event. As everyone has said, it’s a day on, not a day off.”
Other events Monday included a speech from honorary speaker Charles Becknell at the Memorial Building, a performance from the “Splash” puppet show as well as the Portales High School Chorale and recognition of more than 300 students from Portales schools who participated in Martin Luther King Jr. school programs.
Oscar Robinson, chairman of the Portales Cultural Affairs Committee, has been involved with the event for more than 22 years. He said participation seems to grown every year.
“Every year we have different programs,” Robinson said. “It depends on the weather, like today we’ve seen a lot of participation.”
Caldwell and Robinson said Monday’s sunshine and temperatures in the high 50s were a blessing compared to last year.
“It was beautiful today,” Caldwell said. “The weather has been wonderful today; last year it was very icy and we were all falling into each other, but today was great.”
Robinson talked about the difference between preaching to children about King’s mission and showing them by example.
“I believe we have an obligation to our prosperity. If we don’t lead by example, then we can’t expect the example to continue itself,” Robinson said. “Evolutionary thoughts of socialization are not a socialization brain-washing type of deal.
“We didn’t just preach the principles of Martin Luther King, we showed them and brought in different people from our community.”