Louisiana Tech University’s Office of Multicultural Affairs sponsored its 9th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Ecumenical Observance on Monday. Adam Collins served as coordinator.The observance began with a march from Joe Aillet Stadium’s parking lot to the Ruston Civic Center.
Dr. Frank G. Pogue, president of Grambling State University, was the keynote speaker.
Pogue focused on the common experience he and others had with racism, the impact Dr. King had on his life and the way he views the world and how things have changed, yet there is work remaining. Also, he addressed the students.
“Jim Crow laws and segregation stripped America of its dignity. It was separate and unequal,” he said.
He talked about black schools being closed because of the attitude that white schools were superior to black schools and black teachers and principles being taken out of black communities.
“Black teachers, though most often more qualified than whites, could only teach black children,” said Pogue.
He said from elementary school through his master’s program he had black teachers. He did not have a white teacher until he obtained his doctorate degree.
Today, he said it is not unusual to encounter students who have never been taught by an African American.
Pogue, like many blacks of his era, was taught by their parents to go to the back of the bus, use colored fountains and restrooms and stay out of white neighborhoods.
“I could not eat in some of the places that I worked in. We packed food and slept in automobiles because no restaurant would serve us or hotel house us,” he said.
“We have inherited a large house in which we have to live together. We must learn to live together in peace,” he said. “Let us all keep on walking together with Dr. King because we have not finished the job.”
Mertrude Douglas presided over the program. She said, “Our program has a four-fold purpose. We are here to worship, fellowship, commemorate and educate.”
The Rainbow Covenant Community Choir and Band and Tech’s Souls on Fire provided music for the event.
Father Frank Folino, pastor of Ruston’s St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church gave the invocation and blessed the food. He was followed by Louisiana Tech’s ROTC who presented the flag.
Nathan McCarter, a fourth-grader at Glenview Elementary School, led the Pledge of Allegiance.
After lunch, Action Speaks Louder than Words’ Daunte Borner and Quincy Wheaton gave an uplifting performance as mimes.
Cecil Garrick did the greeting and occasion, and Emily LaFleur, Tech’s SGA president, introduced Pogue.
The ecumenical observance began in the early 1980s at Ruston’s Zion Hill Baptist Church. In 1989, members partnered with GSU and Tech. The program outgrew the church, and since 1992, it has been held at the civic center.
Rev. Chris Whitt, pastor of South Parkway Church in Ruston, gave the benediction.