By Christina Calloway: PNT senior writer
Portales residents and city officials marched Monday morning from Eastern New Mexico University to Portales’ Memorial Building, where they “celebrated the dream” with festivities in recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
A crowd of about 150 gathered in the Memorial Building to celebrate the holiday. With a combination of speeches, musical selections, and readings from King, participants agreed that they and the program resembled what Dr. King dreamed of all along, social unity and equality.
“I think it’s great for everyone to be out here together because Dr. King would have loved to see this,” said Nikita Johnson, director of African American Affairs at ENMU. “I think it’s great to honor Dr. King with this day because he brought us all together, no matter what race you are or anything that makes you different.”
Cultural Affairs chairman Oscar Robinson, who served as emcee of the event, said his committee recognizes holidays that are significant to a diverse community.
“Portales is a good example of what Dr. King’s dream was all about, community,” Robinson said.
Highlights of the event included Portales Mayor Sharon L. King’s reading of the proclamation recognizing the holiday, youth presentations including readings of excerpts from one of Dr. King’s famous interviews, and keynote speaker Judge Frederick Arnold’s address.
Arnold told the crowd that he had something prepare but he changed his mind and decided to speak to the youth about changing America.
“When the founders came to this country, they came for religious freedom, for religious tolerance, which in effect relates to us tolerating each other,” Arnold said to the eager-eyed youth in the room. “I can see that we will come together even more so as a community and I’m very thankful for that.”
The program closed with the Portales High School choir’s performance and a prayer to let those reflect on the day.
“I recognize Dr. King because he was a man of this country and important to our culture,” said 11-year-old student Macy Rose.
City of Portales Deputy Clerk Veda Urioste is instrumental to Portales’ planning of this holiday each year and she believed the program was a success.
“This is just something that I really believe in, equality and justice for all,” Urioste said. “What Dr. King did was just wonderful and no one can replace him, but us as a community and us as a world can continue what he started.”
Thoughts expressed by Amy Carter, 15, of the Portales High choir may be an example of what Urioste and Arnold hope for in the youth of today.
“This day means a lot to me because I think everyone has the right to be treated the same no matter how they look because in society, no one really sees that anymore,” Carter said.