By Desiree Johnson
Killeen Daily Herald
Despite cold and rainy weather, hundreds gathered in Killeen to celebrate a day of freedom.
Almost 400 people met at Killeen City Hall on Monday morning to either watch or participate in a march inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and sponsored by the Killeen Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
A variety of groups were represented, from churches to black sororities and fraternities. Stephanie Nadeau stood outside shivering, waiting to catch a glimpse of her son, Justin Nadeau, turning the corner marching with the Shoemaker High School JROTC.
"He's getting promoted (from Sgt. 1st Class), that's why I'm standing out here freezing," Nadeau said. "They're missing some (members), but they look awesome."
NAACP local chapter president Dr. Roy Sampson said the march brought out a good mix of people to remember the work Dr. King achieved.
"We had a great turnout," Sampson said. "It's important that we remember Martin Luther King and what he did, so younger ones who didn't go through the struggle can be reminded of the work he did. He was about equal rights for everyone and he helped reach the entire world."
NAACP 1st vice president Phyllis Jones said she was pleased that the weather didn't affect people's desire to come out and celebrate.
"It all started with the first march and we continue tradition today. It's a positive event that shows togetherness," Jones said. "I'm glad people didn't let the weather get to them."
In a march-ending speech, Sampson emphasized the importance of this year's theme: education. "We did overcome," Sampson said. "The question is, 'Where are we going?'"
The march was only the beginning of the festivities. Attendees met later in the afternoon at the Killeen Community Center for a special program featuring keynote speaker Dr. Edward L. Wagner, senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church. Wagner emphasized the importance of being an advocate for Dr. King's past work in the present day, as well as the importance of voting as a culture. Wagner said the day was an important way to get the word out about the struggles that have been overcome, especially to the younger generations.
"There are a lot of things taken for granted now by young people, both black and white," Wagner said. "As a great philosopher once said, 'A people who does not remember their history is doomed to repeat it.'"
Maxine Hancock, wife of Killeen Mayor Timothy Hancock, said Martin Luther King was a man who showed great courage in his time, was a leader, and brought a group of oppressed people out of darkness. She too understands the importance of this year's march and program theme of education for younger generations.
"It was simply before their time. We hope by remembering him we can show younger generations what was before and where they are now in relation to that," Hancock said. "Hopefully they will take advantage of all the privileges his work has given us."
So are the younger generations actually getting the message? 18-year-old
NAACP Youth Council secretary, Roshell Ingram, 18, is a member of the younger generation who turned out to hear the message Monday.
She said she understands that the celebration was a day of remembering a time before hers.
"He was a man who did great things, but wasn't around long enough to really see the results. We lost an important person at a young age and we celebrate his work," said Ingram, a Killeen High School student.
"Things just wouldn't be the same. He helped us get to where we are today and (younger generations) still have a whole lot to learn."
Contact Desiree Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7559