Remembering by doing

Sarah Hess

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In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., people marched across campus chanting, "United we stand, divided we fall." Sarah Hess/The Lion's Roar

The brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. hosted a two-part memorial in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The memorial began with a march starting at the Pennington Student Activity Center, crossing campus chanting, “United we stand, divided we fall” and ending at the Student Union Theater where a program was held with a song, poem and a speech by the main speaker of the night Assessment/Testing Coordinator at Southern University and A&M College Dr. Donovan Segura.

This memorial march across the university’s campus is not the first time Hammond has seen people marching for equal rights. During the period of the civil rights movement, Hammond was one of the checkpoints for participants of the march from Bogalusa to Franklinton along Interstate 190 in 1967. A chapter of Deacons for Defense and Justice was formed by African-Americans to protect themselves from hate crimes since the police would not.

The beginning idea of the march was that 100 people would demonstrate their need for equality. WWII military veteran A. Z. Young led and organized the protest march that was to end at the parish seat in Franklinton approximately 25 miles away in late July 1967. The journey’s purpose was the transportation for a list of grievances they would present at the capital in Baton Rouge.

Burnadean Wyre-Warren, a retired principle, marched from Bogalusa to Franklinton. Wyre-Warren was 28 at the time and explained her emotions when the march began.

“I was scared, but I mean, I had to march,” said Wyre-Warren. “Somebody had to do it.”

The march took nine days to accomplish and was a mentally and physically tasking endeavor, only stopping in increments to sleep and eat. Wyre-Warren’s father David Keyser built a portable toilet on a truck because no one would rent them one so that marchers would not have to break from walking with the group to use the restroom.

“We came through the Hammond community, and we stayed at the football field there by Hammond Junior High,” said Wyre-Warren. “And they took the cars and put them in a big circle like a wagon train, and they had everybody just stay on the inside of the cars.”

Satsuma was where marchers found the most trouble. In Hammond, they went to integrate a bar in downtown, and a fire broke out.

Wyre-Warren expressed her beliefs in why the younger generations should continue the memorial of marching in King’s honor. 

 “I think they should continue it because unless we keep it in the minds of those people who are in charge, we probably will never make any progress,” said Wyre-Warren. “Still we’re not satisfied because we are not equal. We really are not. I mean we’ve come a long way. We’ve come a long way since slavery, but still, we haven’t gotten there.”

Senior engineering technology major Datron Matthews took part in the campus march. A member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Matthews explained why he decided to participate in the march.

“Just to give support first off but outside of support, just respect for the man Dr. Martin Luther King for everything that he's done and the legacy that he's done and the legacy that he’s left behind," said Matthews.

Master of ceremonies of the night and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Eugene Davis started off the program with a call to action.

“What makes this country so great is our diversity, our ancestors, us,” said Davis. “We all come from different places where our president’s not too fond of, but our unity is forged in opportunity, and this country has always been and will always be a beacon of hope for people all across the globe. In this new day, I am challenging you to reimagine, to rethink and to build off of Dr. King’s dream to make sure that we dismantle white supremacy. At its very root, we as one people, we as one nation can thrive and help beautify this already beautiful color of unity."

Segura spoke to the attending students and administration.

"I'm always energized and excited to add value, to shine the light as we unfold pages of history, more particularly when we honor and salute Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and empowering young, noble, vigilant and true freedom riders who by God’s grace literally revolutionized the way in which we lead,” said Segura. “When the leader of the free world openly and unashamedly referred to humans, referred to people from Africa as being immigrants from ‘blank hole countries,’ when its seemingly popular police officers are operating under our country’s judicial system to end lives and to discriminate than be a judicator for such awful hate crimes.”

 Many of the marchers held similar viewpoints of the necessity of this march including freshman nursing major Jada Fortia.

“It was a great thing to do,” said Fortia. “It’s honoring my culture. I'm a black African-American, and I think that’s great for them to have a walk and do something for my culture."

To honor King, Segura believes there is still work to be done.

“I pondered on the theme for today, the color of unity honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Segura. “I thought to myself, ‘Are we really honoring our brother beloved?’ Year after year, we have programs proclaiming to honor the legacy of this giant of a soldier, but are we really honoring Dr. King or are we just remembering him? Are we having programs in January because it’s his birthday, because it’s tradition or because it’s a national holiday? Or maybe the month of February will be pause to reflect on moments in black history? I admit to you today having programs are decent, but if we are not living by what we are honoring and that is his dream, then we are failing Dr. King’s honor and his legacy.”

Segura explained how we can honor King in our everyday lives, not just in February.

“We honor Dr. King by not just showing up to programs, but we honor him by the lives in which we live,” said Segura. “We honor him by the seeds of love and dignity that we sow. We honor him by treating people right, not because it might be beneficial to you, but just treating people right because it’s just right to treat people right. We honor him by for standing up for justice. We honor him by walking in integrity, by living the life of honor, by living a life of love. We honor him by coming in peace."

Many student organizations took part in the march including a large turnout from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Pan-Hellenic Council organization. President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Cedric Dent expressed his response to the support from the Greek community.

”Support is needed now more than ever on this campus,” said Dent. “If everyone can support each other’s event, then unity will be spread and noticed. Our support comes from networking and also talking to our fellow peers. We really appreciate everyone who supports our events.”

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