In a collective voice that could be heard a mile away, hundreds of Killeen-area residents celebrated their civil rights by singing the gospel refrain, “Victory is Mine,” as they marched across the bridge on North W.S. Young Drive on Monday.
“Today was the biggest turnout we have ever had for the MLK walk,” said TaNeika Driver, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Killeen branch, who estimated 500 residents participated in the march.
“It is just good to be American.”
For Driver, the 1½-mile march, which ended at the Killeen Community Center around 10:30 a.m., testified to the great distance the country has traveled for equal rights in the 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the historic march on Washington, D.C.
She compared Monday’s march to events that occurred on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in 1965.
Using brutal violence, police prevented a peaceful throng of civil rights activists from marching over the bridge toward their state Capitol.
“This year, because of Dr. King, we did not have to turn around,” Driver said.
African-Americans have much to celebrate in 2013, Driver said.
“We are celebrating not only the second term of our first black president and 50 years of the March (on Washington for Jobs and Freedom), but also the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation,” Driver said.
The proclamation was issued Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln, declaring that all those enslaved in Confederate territory were “forever free.”
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where King gave his famous “I Have a Dream,” speech, occurred Aug. 28, 1963.
“2013 is a big year for African-Americans and for America,” Driver said.
Each year the NAACP remembers the great civil rights activist and orator with a special program.
This year’s program, titled “Living Out the Dream Paved by Dr. King,” featured the swearing-in of President Barack Obama and his second inaugural address, projected on a large screen in the back of the Killeen Community Center.
“If it had not been for Dr. King, the African-American community would not be gathering together today under one roof,” Driver said.
David Reynolds, pastor of Greater Vision Community Church, was among the many proud African-Americans who attended the celebration.
“This is the 50-year anniversary of a very difficult year for M.L.K.,” Reynolds said. “We came a tremendous distance but we have a tremendous way to go,”
Nicole Douglas, who brought her young children to the march, said it is important to continue to teach them about the struggle African-Americans endured during the civil rights movement.
“I think a lot of the change happened because of Dr. King,” Douglas said. “I feel honored to stand here before him with my kids.”