N.O. marks MLK Day with marches, speeches and a call for unity

New Orleans celebrates MLK Jr.

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Some sang songs reminiscent of the turbulent Civil Rights era, others clutched photos and handmade signs as marchers trekked through parts of New Orleans Monday (Jan. 21).

It was both a solemn and celebratory mood as the city marked the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell spoke during a ceremony which preceded the march.

"As we continue to strive toward that vision and that dream let us be united together in that,” Cantrell said.

One of Cantrell’s predecessors, former mayor Marc Morial, delivered the keynote address.

"He would have a lot to give us credit for, but he wouldn’t be satisfied with what he saw today, that’s why I thought the record would be mixed,” Morial said,who serves as president of the National Urban League.

King preached messages of racial and economic equality before his life was taken by an assassin’s bullet in 1968. This year would have marked his 90th birthday.

The city’s events commemorating his legacy attracted people of all races and ages, including 8-year-old Steven Pender.

"Dr. King was a great, great person. He told black people that they weren’t better than white people, and he told white people they weren’t better than black people. Everybody is equal, like, he was so helpful,” Pender said as he waited to see the march.

“I think there’s still progress to make. There’s still inequalities everywhere and you know, if we don’t get out and support, who will?” Brent Fradella said at the event.

"His life was for us to have a lot of peace and understanding toward each and every last one of us,” Chrystyn Davis said.

Some, like Ann Legaux, who lined the march route, said everyone has a role to play in keeping Dr. King’s dream alive.

"I think as long as we know what the dream is and recognize that it is our responsibility to care one for the other, as long as we as individuals are doing that, then we’re holding it up,” Legaux said.

"His legacy is just, it lives on in all of our children and our grandkids,” observer Michael Davis said.

Morial said he hopes observance of the national holiday will prompt many to act.

"A recommitment by people who participate to the principles and the work of Dr. King, and that they’ll learn about his work and make a commitment that the issues we face today, whether it’s low wages and income inequality, or the need for better schools, or the expansion of health care are issues that Dr. King’s message speaks to,” Morial said.

The former mayor believes more progress is needed.

"What I hope comes out of this is a reaffirmation. Martin Luther King and his day, and the celebration just can’t be about nostalgia,” Morial said.

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