Heroes need a hand sometimes. Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t go it alone; he had people such as Rosa Parks fighting beside him. In observance of MLK Jr. Day, the Paramount Theatre Centre Monday held a citywide celebration. Had he not been assassinated April 4, 1968, King would’ve been 77 on Sunday. Restrooms weren’t segregated. People of color sat amongst whites in the theater. Attendees were in unison. Early on, Ivy Tech Community College and Anderson University student flagbearers walked down the aisle with flags recognizing Britain, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Nations, among others — displaying the diversity of the world (PHOTO: Damon Golden recites Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech.).
A local sheriff’s deputy carried the American flag. “It’s all about paying debts,” U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th District, said. “In my 46 years here in Indiana and America, we’ve come a long way. But we have far to go.” King and Parks cannot be confined to a paragraph in high school U.S. history books. It’s about the march, the speech, the city bus and, most importantly, freedom. “When we often refer to Dr. King, we often refer to his ‘I Have a Dream Speech,’” said AU’s D. Wesley Poythress, also master of ceremonies. “He was a lot more than that.”
Though King is not around, the civil rights leader still captivates audiences — blacks, whites, Hispanics, young, middle-aged and elderly were present.
No need for Anderson High School student Damon Golden to stand strong at Washington, D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial. He fervently read ‘I Have a Dream,’ receiving a standing ovation, as if he was there that day in August 1963.
Guest speaker Bishop Rob Scott of Anderson-based Resurrection Temple thanked everyone for allowing him the opportunity.
“A place (Paramount) five decades ago, I would’ve not been able to enter the front door, let alone speak on the stage,” Scott said.
Scott read statistics regarding blacks’ median income and low voter registration in 1960.
“In 1963, a dream of equality was a radical idea,” Scott said. “But, in fact, it was the right dream at the right time articulated by the right man.”
Scott acknowledged several milestones. And he challenged youth to press toward the mark that King once did.
“We must keep on moving because complacency leads to apathy,” the guest speaker said. “Apathy leads to dependency and dependency leads to bondage.
“Political participation is still the best avenue for ensuring education for our children,” Scott added.
Citing Anderson’s education and employment issues, Scott addressed a full house stating progression starts in these areas, to name a couple.
Until Dec. 1, 1955, most Americans knew nothing of the petite 42-year-old Parks until she refused to give up her seat on the General Motors city bus. In front of the Paramount, Parks, emulated by local attorney Irma Hampton Nave Stewart, sat up front on an Anderson bus displaying her equal rights.
After Parks’ refusal to give in, “the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” met King shortly thereafter.
Parks, 92, died in October.
Other speakers were Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith, AU student Courtlon Peters and Morgan Edwards, Anderson High School student and NAACP Youth state president.
Even new Fire Chief Phillip Rogers received a standing ovation. Rogers is the first black to hold the position in Anderson.
To some, coming a long way doesn’t mean blacks have “made it.”
Parks (Stewart) made some remarks about blacks’ freedom today. For example, “We are not free,” she said, “especially when only one out of four black males are expected to graduate from high school.”
She also stated, “We are not free as a people as long as the school board is all white in your community.”
— TOSHUA E. PHILLIPS is a reporter with the Anderson Herald-Bulletin. Click on the Herald-Bulletin Web site at www.theheraldbulletin.com