Shirley Flowers made her way to the front of the crowd, just behind a banner, ready to march and display her support for Martin Luther King Jr.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever had a chance to take part in this,” Flowers said of the annual march. She donned a T-shirt with the phrase, “And justice for all.”

In past years, Flowers, despite her desire to attend the program, was working. But this year she had just watched the movie “Selma,” and the events portrayed on the big screen “put chills on me to think what these people had to go through.”

“We have come a long way through this journey,” Flowers said, adding that people today should appreciate the progress and live peaceful lives.

Flowers and more than 300 residents attended the Jan. 19 march from M.L. Lockhart Park to Roberts United Methodist Church during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, held annually for more than 20 years. This year’s event featured songs, liturgical dances, presentations and guest speaker Ronald Mason, president of Southern University.

“Our ultimate goal is to keep the dream alive and get young people to understand what Martin Luther King stood for,” said co-organizer Fred Banks. “We want them to become productive citizens.”

Nakin Scott, 13, watched in awe of the program and talked about how important Martin Luther King Jr. Day is to her. “Instead of white against black, we can all get together and have a fun time,” said the Denham Springs teen.

Nakin said she appreciates how King taught people how to handle conflict in a nonviolent way, something more people should practice.

She recommends that young people attend King programs wherever they live “and learn about other people they don’t know about.”

Keaira Gross, 9, of Denham Springs, said Martin Luther King Jr. Day means “freedom.”

Keaira said King also taught people how important it is to live in harmony.

“He told us it’s not white versus black,” she said. “We’re supposed to be together.”

During the program, business leaders and the Martin Luther King Jr. Task Force distributed more than $10,000 in scholarship money to college students. Banks said he hopes the scholarships help young people realize and understand King’s dream for equality.

Scholarship recipients are Ravyn Mitchell, Jalyn Brooks, Calentria Curtis, Carlisha Kinchen, Jeremy Washington, Quitesha Scott, Calvin Curtis, Tyler Curtis, Katelyn Evans and Collette Mitchell.