Lafayette’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration, which has served as the flagship of MLK festivities in south Louisiana, turns the big 3-0 this weekend — 30 years of commemorating the legacy of the civil rights leader.
“We look at this as a trademark of success,” said Gerald Boudreaux, Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Committee chairman.
Committee members are prepared to mark the anniversary in a big way with three days of events, from saluting local African-American pioneers in community health care to welcoming the esteemed president of historic Morehouse College.
The theme, “Living the Dream: Change Begins with Me,” explores how to address community issues ranging from poverty to politics, Boudreaux said.
“We must continue to set the bar — set objectives of what we would like to see done,” Boudreaux said.
The celebration begins at 2 p.m. Saturday with a musical extravaganza at the MLK Recreation Center in Lafayette, followed by the Martin Luther King Youth Pageant.
Dr. Kenneth Brown will serve as parade marshal at 3 p.m. Sunday, when the Martin Luther King Holiday Parade rolls down MLK Boulevard, beginning at the Clifton Chenier Center and ending at the MLK Recreation Center.
Brown opened a community health clinic on Surrey Street in Lafayette in the 1980s, long before most community health centers came into existence and long before anyone was talking about affordable health care.
On Monday, an 8:30 a.m. flag-raising ceremony starts the day’s official celebration at the MLK Recreation Center, followed by a prayer breakfast. There will be educational and cultural activities for youths from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., along with health screenings, booths and exhibitions.
Dr. Ernest Kinchen will be honored for his numerous years of medical service at a community luncheon from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. recognizing sponsors.
At 6 p.m., the evening commemorative program will spotlight Dr. John S. Wilson, president of Morehouse College in Atlanta.
“We’re so honored to have a man of his distinction to come here,” Boudreaux said.
“How Pleasant It Is for Brethren to Dwell in Unity” is the theme of the third annual MLK Prayer Breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Southeast Neighborhood Center in Eunice.
Events in Eunice continue on Sunday with the 29th annual MLK Celebration, kicking off with a parade at 2 p.m. A program with the theme of “Unity for the Community” follows at 3 p.m.
“That theme represents a new day, a new day in America where people can get together and not look at color or skin, but living together as one, and this should happen all over America,” organizer Carlton Frank Jr. said.
Humanitarian and MLK awards will be given out during the program. The guest speaker is East Elementary School Principal Dawnetta Dupre Scott.
Opelousas will celebrate its 33rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and Memoriam on Monday.
The event starts with a parade at 1 p.m. that begins at South City Park and proceeds to the Holy Ghost Catholic Church. A 2 p.m. program follows. The theme is “The Legacy of Service: The Color of Unity.”
“We should go out in the community and do something for someone,” founder Rebecca D. Henry said. “If you can’t attend the program, if you can’t attend the parade, perhaps you can go out and do something in your community for someone that day.”
The event’s keynote speaker will be Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Brandon Shelvin.
The program also includes orations, gospel choirs, liturgical dance and youth participation.
Loreauville will hold its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. annual march beginning at 10 a.m. Monday, from the Loreauville Park to Our Lady of Victory Church. On tap will be dancers, a soloist, choirs and speakers. The march will be followed by a program at the church. A gospel play, “A Dream Which Will Live and Never Die,” is also scheduled.
“Partnership with Our Community: Providing Support, Communication and Education” is the theme of Rayne’s celebration, which will begin Monday with a parade at 8:30 a.m. at the Depot Square followed by a march to Rayne Civic Center at 9:30 a.m.
At the center, a health fair includes screenings on diabetes, blood pressure and HIV/AIDS. There will also be a focus on obesity.
Dianne Granger, president of the National Association of University Women’s Rayne Branch, which sponsors the event, said the festivities beginning at 11 a.m. will include essays, and poster and coloring book contests. Guest speaker for the event is former Lafayette Parish Superintendent James Easton, who now heads Acadia Parish School System’s Head Start Program.