Residents march in memory of Martin Luther King Jr.

Rodney Hendricks Jr., 8, stood outside the Legacy Life Family Church in the cold wind Monday morning as he listened to the words of Rev. Phillip Landers during a rally in memory of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Staff photo: Sharna Johnson)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The words were written decades ago by Martin Luther King Jr., but they rang powerfully Monday morning from the steps of the Legacy Life Family Church.

After marching 13 blocks in biting winds, a dense band of Clovis residents climbed the steps of the church to hear Roger Grooms recite “I Have a Dream.”

“The speech still brings chills, no matter how many times you hear it,” said Clovis resident David Blackmon.

Blackmon was among hundreds who participated in the 14th annual Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration, marching on Main Street from the Hilltop Plaza to the brick church in honor of the 1965 civil rights march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala.

That march was a demonstration against practices that kept blacks from voting in Selma. It was halted when police attacked marchers with billy clubs, tear gas and bull whips. King led an abbreviated march days later, and the walk to the state capitol resumed once a court ruling prevented the state from stopping the marchers.

Police also lined the Clovis route Monday, but they were there to protect, rather than harm, the marchers. Billowing in front of the racially diverse marchers was a United States and New Mexico flag held aloft by Clovis High School students.

“Everytime we are in a parade, we lead,” said Clovis High School student and ROTC member Michael Roper. “This time is different because it is for a special cause.”

A few onlookers waved and smiled as the marchers made their way down Main Street, belting out Gospel songs. But despite a celebratory mood among the crowd, many said discrimination is not dead.

“In a lot of ways, the words of ‘I Have a Dream’ still apply today,” said marcher Rodney Hendricks of Clovis.

Clovis resident Delores Forrest and her daughter stood side by side on the steps of the Legacy Life Family Church as marchers filed into the building for a special service. “It was wonderful,” Forrest said of the march, while casting a glance toward her daughter. “Like going back to our foundation.”

Organized by the Clovis Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, the event was a success, said Commission President Joyce Pollard — even with a wind chill of 27 degrees, as reported by local meteorologists.

This year, commissioners sought to reach a greater volume of students. More than 30 percent of the marchers were students. “I was so pleased that all the students got out,” Pollard said.

Lincoln-Jackson Elementary School and Marshall Junior High School students were in greatest attendance, and the schools will receive a traveling trophy later this week for their participation, Pollard said. For, as Blackmon said, “It is with the youngsters we need to keep the dream alive.”