Kicking off with a recording of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech that set the tone for the evening, hundreds of community members of all ages packed the house for the 14th annual step show at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center on Sunday evening.

Emcee Mookie Durant celebrated the parents in the audience and encouraged the children in attendance to listen to their moms and dads and keep their grades up, to continue receiving the opportunity to express themselves at the annual show.

Mayor Dan Corbin gave a brief tribute to the slain civil rights leader, inviting the crowd to “remember him this weekend” and calling the show an important event.

Tyresa Conley and Deashia Jones, two young members of Marlboro Heights Missionary Baptist Church, gave a rousing spoken word performance that played on catch phrases and popular song lyrics to speak to the hearts of the youth in the audience.

Jasmine Purnell, daughter of longtime organizer Joy Purnell, estimated nearly 1,000 people attended the show, which pitted four area high schools against one another in a friendly rivalry.

“(The show) is important for Killeen as a whole,” Purnell said. “It gives kids an opportunity to show off their talent, to do something positive, and to honor Dr. King and their own history.”

In addition to the high school group competition, the evening showcased performances by Trimmier Elementary, Cedar Valley Elementary, Charles Patterson Middle School and three dance teams.

Lilly Clark, 18, captain of the Shoemaker High School step team, waited eagerly to perform in her fourth and final show at the competition.

“I love being able to show who I am,” Clark said. “People think I’m shy but I’m not.” She enjoys the camaraderie within her team too. “We get to be ourselves, together.”

Each performance was themed to honor King’s memory, along with the strides society has made since the civil rights movement more than 50 years earlier.

“The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King doesn’t stop here,” Durant said. “We have to keep moving forward.”

Contact Madison Lozano​ at or 254-501-7552.

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