R AYNE — This Acadia Parish city of 8,000 may be small, but its residents honored the memory of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in a big way Monday with a march and several other events designed to bring the community together.
“They killed the man, but they did not kill his legacy, his thoughts or his spirit,” said Mayor Chuck Robichaux. “He has served as an inspiration for 48 years. He’s a reason to know there’s hope.”
About 100 people gathered Monday morning at the Depot Square and then marched to the Rayne Civic Center, where students shared poetry and songs they had written about King, and other members of the community were invited to share what the day means for them.
“This is something for our young children to remember, and thank God that they don’t have to deal with some of the things they had to then. Racism is still alive and well, and we have to eradicate it,” said Hilda Wiltz, a member of the National Association of University Women, which co-sponsored the day’s events.
She said there were representatives of every church and school in Rayne at the march, which fit the celebration’s message of “Drawing courage and strength as a unified community promoting peace and justice.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is held on the third Monday of January every year, which is near his birthday: Jan. 15. It was first observed as a national holiday in 1986, after President Ronald Reagan signed it into law.
“This community here really embraces Dr. Martin Luther King, and he’s a lot of the reason why the black community and the white community get together and have events like this because it’s a day of wellness for the kids,” Robichaux said.