County Manager Dick Smith, left, Commission Chairperson Ed Perales, center, and Selmus Price, who serves on the Clovis Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, lead the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Walk on Monday morning. (Photo: Tova Fruchtman)
By Tova Fruchtman: CNJ staff writer
About 100 Clovis residents, young and old, large and small, black and white, marched from Roy Walker Community Center to St. Johns Baptist Church on Monday morning to commemorate a 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.-led march to Montgomery, Ala.
Clouds of breath escaped from the mouths of those singing the faint songs reminiscent of the Civil Rights Movement, as the group marched down Clovis streets.
“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine …”
“Woke up this morning with my mind, stayed on Jesus …”Juice and water were served at three stops along the way. Joyce Pollard, the Clovis Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, said these stops intended to mirror three stops the protesters made in 1965 on the march from Selma to Montgomery.
In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, when King and protesters in 1965 finally reached Montgomery, Ala., they heard their supporters singing:
“We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome, some day.”
The first march King led from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery — advocating that blacks have the chance to register and vote in the South — was met with violence, tear gas and police officers with clubs. But by the end of year, the protesters had made it from Selma to Montgomery and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was approved by congress.
Pollard said she hoped Monday’s march would reach children, and she was pleased with how many youth attended the event.
“We need to just get them involved in doing things that are positive,” she said. “We have to do something to stop some of the violence that’s around.”
The Martin Luther King Jr. Commission awarded a trophy to the elementary and middle school that had the most students. Sandia Elementary and Marshall Junior High won the trophies.
Jay Brady, principal of Sandia, was there to accept the trophy for his school. He said he has been announcing the event and encouraging students to attend for a few weeks.
“We are a character-counts school and we’re trying to show character in action,” Brady said. “It’s just another way of presenting the same message they get in school.”
Brady said he thought the children were particularly inspired by Roger Grooms re-enactment of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
“It was good for the kids’ to hear it,” he said. “When they were sitting there listening to it, they were like ‘wow, that’s really neat.’”
Brady said the speech inspired him as well.
“The power of the speech itself hasn’t lost any of it’s potency over time.”
Curry County Manager Dick Smith said he has attended the march every year for the six years he has lived in Clovis.
“You know to me it’s just the right thing to do,” Smith said. “I think it’s a way of displaying that brotherhood that we all need.”
As he walked, Smith said he was inspired by the children’s aspirations of becoming doctors and lawyers, explaining before people like King minority children in America may not have had such aspirations.
Smith, Brady and Pollard seemed to have the same ideas about the morning’s march: Hoping to show children what they could accomplish and promote unity.
After walking more than a mile, attendees gathered at St. James Baptist Church for a rally. Pollard said they chose to end the rally in the church because the Civil Rights Movement was a spiritual movement and many of the meetings and rallies were held in churches.
Rev. Joe L. Callahan spoke about using spirituality to help children to advance and stop drug use, incarceration and teen pregnancy. He spoke to a background of piano and organ music and a crowd with hands in the air shouting “Amen” and “Yes, sir.”
After a collection was taken for the Clovis Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, the marchers rose, and joined in song one last time.
They sang: “We shall overcome. We shall overcome. We shall over come some day.”
“Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.”