MLK day ceremonies and marches highlighted Dr. King’s dream; voting rights the focus of some
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A wreath was placed at the Dr. Martin King Junior statue on Claiborne Avenue at MLK Boulevard as the city of New Orleans commemorated the life of the slain civil rights leader.
Mayor Latoya Cantrell joined other city officials and residents to mark the national holiday for King’s birthday. King would have turned 93 on last Saturday.
“My heart is truly heavy as I call upon all residents of our community to show that love that Dr. King said only can drive out darkness wherever it exists, and right now darkness does exist in our community, in our neighborhood,” said Cantrell.
In the city of Kenner in neighboring Jefferson Parish dozens took part in a solemn march down Reverend Richard Wilson Drive.
Cheryl Johnson came out to watch the march.
“Martin Luther King, he’s monumental to me, he’s very special,” said Johnson.
People of all ages took part in the march and watched it from sidewalks.
Brooklyn Dhifulla and her siblings and her mother were also in attendance.
“He wanted all of us to come together. He had a dream of all of us coming together and then his dream came true,” said Dhifulla.
King died at the age of 39 from an assassin’s bullet.
Johnson said the sacrifice King made in fighting for racial equality will not be forgotten.
“I mean he died for, believing that people would come as one, there would be no racial discrepancies and it’s just an honor to be such a memorable thing,” said Johnson.
Laylah Dhifulla has been taught about King’s dream for society.
“His dream was to get all of us to come together and not be separated, become a big old family,” said the younger Dhifulla.
King’s legacy is woven through New Orleans. The venerable Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was founded at the New Zion Baptist Church in New Orleans in 1957 during a meeting where King was present. He became the organization’s first president.
Robert Collins, Ph.D., is a Dillard University political analyst.
“Rev. King was elected as its president and an important group of local pastors supported him in that effort. So, you could argue that the entire Civil Rights movement, certainly in the South and really nationwide was started right here in New Orleans as far as starting the legal and the political efforts to get people their civil rights,” said Collins.
MLK holiday marches which take place around the U.S. are symbolic of the marches King often led during the turbulent Civil Rights Movement.
“When you had these marches and remember these marches were not just black people, these were white people, these were Jewish people, these were multi-faith leaders and so they saw these giant crowds that were marching and it really galvanized the public movement,” said Collins.
This year’s MLK Day happened amid civil rights activists and some other Americans who say more than a dozen states have passed laws in the past year to make voting harder.
On Tuesday, Democrats in the U.S. Senate are expected to bring up federal voting rights legislation. Republicans oppose the legislation, calling it an attempt to interfere with how states run elections.
Collins worked in the U.S. Senate.
“The U.S. Supreme basically gutted the Civil Rights Act of 1965 by taking out the pre-clearance requirement whereby states in the South who had a history of discrimination had to submit their reapportionment maps to the Justice Department,” said Collins.
The proposed legislation would restore the pre-clearance requirement. That requirement also deals with election policies.
“It attempts to put those pre-clearance requirements back and it also has a series of requirements to make, to basically stop states from making voting any more difficult than it is now,” said Collins.
Voting rights were on the minds of some who attended MLK activities.
“People have died, you know, for our right to vote, there should be no discrepancies with the right to vote,” said Johnson.
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