T.H. Watkins honors black community leaders

More than a dozen local black community leaders were recognized on Tuesday during T.H. Watkins Elementary School’s annual Black History Month program, “Dream Big.”

Ashley Johnson, principal, said this year’s program was designed to honor the “community dreamers” and “heroes that are directly impacting (our) student’s daily lives right here, right now.”

With selections from the Washington-Marion High School Choir, students and faculty recognized Todd Clemons, Rodney Geyen, Lisa Walker, Gladys McKnight, Esther Vincent, Jimmy Stevens, Marcus Jackson, Cynthia Arceneaux, Rico Guillory, Marzetta Guillory, Judge Sharon Wilson, Dr. Joseph Semien, Stella Miller and Martha Gray.

“We have people here in our community the children can relate to — African American greatness,” said Gabrielle Doucet, school counselor and committee chairperson.

Bernice Gallien, secretary and committee chairperson, said this year’s program was different than past ones.

“We always say, ‘Reach for the stars,’ like TV and historical figures, and that’s great,” she said. “But this gives that visual effect of meeting the person.”

Clemons, a local attorney and guest speaker, addressed students and the choices they will make throughout their lives.

Some of the topics he discussed included relationships, education and the criminal justice system.

“We live by choice, not chance,” he said. “You can go anywhere from right here. I’m a proud product of the public school system.”

Drawing from his experience in law, Clemons told students that the system is not always fair to people of color.

“People who look like us often don’t get treated the same way as others,” he said.

Despite this, he told students to embrace their heritage and live out their ancestor’s dreams.

“I’m not anti-any race; I’m just pro-black,” he said. “Be proud of your heritage, skin tone and hair.”

‘We live by choice, not chance. You can go anywhere from right here. I’m a proud product of the public school system.’

Todd Clemons

Local attorney

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T.H. Watkins Principal Ashley Johnson, Assistant Principal Brandi Gallien and Lalonnie Jones presenting Todd Clemons with a community award at Tuesday’s “Dream Big” black history program.