By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
Hosts and guests shared inspiration during Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, citing the event itself as evidence of definitive progress in race relations.
Host Tom Carson said the city’s organization of MLK activities began in the early 1990s and broke new ground by being the first city in Cooke County to pay any tribute to the slain activist.
Monday morning’s California Street parade led to festivities in Gainesville Civic Center, now a tradition that has endured more than 20 years.
“We’re all part of the good that came from the teachings from Martin Luther King, and we’re all part of the equality brought about,” Carson said. “And here in a community that I used to call ‘the city of the firsts,’ we may become more than that.”
The two-hour ceremony featured music by Patrick Bradley and special community service awards for Lela Mae Hennesy, Barbara Royal, Glenn Polk and representatives of North Central Texas College, plus scholarship awards for student Zhanice Lane.
It also included a message from Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) agent Corey Hardin, who appealed to the predominantly African-American audience to consider getting involved with his organization, which provides mentoring to foster children, many of them also African-American.
“None of them have a CASA volunteer who looks like them, which means we at CASA didn’t do a good enough job of making that happen,” Hardin said. “When they were taken from everything they had ever known and were put into homes of families that didn’t quite look like theirs. They miss their families and probably most of them are scared living with folks who didn’t quite do things the same.”
Hardin admitted that the youth of CASA will benefit from volunteers of any race, but said more diversity in the current staff roster would be helpful.
“You know and I know that every African-American child in foster care would do better if they had a CASA volunteer who looked like them and shared the same struggles — and, not only that, can explain those struggles from personal experience,” he said.
Gainesville Mayor Jim Goldsworthy credited his community’s progress, which has been made possible by efforts from citizens of all races. And he added that even more progress is possible not only through cultural harmony but a positive attitude.
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,” Goldsworthy said, quoting King. “I can’t be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality. We live in a fantastic community. ... There are so many wins taking place, and it’s a great place to be. Be part of the positive change that makes this such a wonderful place.”
Two additional special addresses came from educators; the first was English teacher Marvin White, telling the audience how the message of King offered him buoyance and comfort during a youth marked with loneliness and domestic problems.
“His dream, his vision,” White said. “His dream, his vision. In looking at his dream, I thought about my life, the peaks and the valleys — valleys that would have not been conquered without his fight, vision, dream, dedication and hard work. How can one pay tribute to a man so dynamic and so life-changing? By creating our own change.”
The second was from Gainesville Independent School District principal Terry Ashby, who cited his Choctaw heritage in discussing the universal similarities among races.
He offered a message that among all people, hope and faith for a hopeful future are the finest tools toward actually making that future happen.
“I’m trying to impart to our children but also to adults: take time to teach your children the faith,” he said. “Because you are their best role model. Teach them the hope so that one day, like Moses, they will lead.”