(Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 11:52 AM
Martin Luther King Jr. Day has affected people since 1986, when it was established as a national holiday. Monday was no different, as people in Lake Charles observed and celebrated King’s life.
Days before the official holiday festivities were already kicking off with speakers commemorating the civil rights leader, entertainers performing and plenty of Cajun and Creole food.
Crowds gathered Monday at the Civic Center and beyond to watch the annual MLK parade, which began at 11 a.m. There, spectators watched performers and floats wind their way down the streets. “Yes, Dr. King Had a Dream; I Too Have a Dream!” — the theme for this year’s festival — was a reminder to those celebrating to hold on to King’s vision.
“I think it’s so important that we remember our black heritage, where we’ve come from and the events that have brought us to this day,” Ethel Mitchell said. “Of course we’re here to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King who had a significant impact on the black American heritage.”
While many people appreciated the sunny weather and the chance for a day off, they still found time to reflect on what the day was about. Arthur J. Lewis said he was thankful for what King did and how he inspired others to follow in his footsteps.
“It’s a great celebration for me and definitely I admire what Dr. Martin Luther King did,” Lewis said. “It took a God-sent preacher to be able to stand through the trials and tribulations that he went through to give the blacks a better place in life as human beings; he wanted everybody to be treated equal.”
Young and old people celebrated the day. Some spectators said they were continuing to be a part of the tradition they had been embracing for many years. Others brought their children to partake in their first MLK holiday and to teach them about the man who inspired thousands.
“It means a day of freedom and we can just enjoy the day to be free and go out and just have a great day,” Mary Jack said. “People should remember that he had a role in us becoming free and that we now have to learn how to keep the legacy going and to respect all that he’d done for us.”
Festivities ended with a gumbo cook off where the winning team, Seafood Palace, earned $1,000 for their prize. While attendees enjoyed the food, music and camaraderie, there was an air of appreciation for the man who ultimately lost his life to create a better future.
“This is a very memorable occasion; anytime we can do anything to reflect upon that the life and the legacy of Dr. King it’s always very important,” Mark Lewis said. “I know that in my life I, as well as a lot of people my age, couldn’t be enjoying the things we have today if it wasn’t for what Dr. King did during his time when he marched, when he went out of his way to demand equal rights for African Americans during that time — all those things that he did are making an impact for us today.”