A four block long parade began the celebration of Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Winnsboro. The 10:30 a.m. parade began in the parking lot of First Baptist Church and followed Elm Street to MLK park where guests were welcomed by speeches by pastors, city leadership, and a chili lunch. A voter registration table was also made available at Rock Station. Leaders of the event stated they are planning a MLK Day King and Queen pageant for children next year. The day’s events were organized by H.Y.P.E.-Helping Young People Excel.
Led by City of Winnsboro police and a mounted color guard, members of the community marched to celebrate the day. County Judge Lucy Hebron, City Mayor Andrea Newsome, City Alderman David Corning, 4-H clubs, and others rode in the parade.
At the park, several members of the community spoke about the history of MLK Day in Winnsboro and shared the continuing dreams forged by Dr. King’s legacy. Dr Lionel Traylor read “I Have a Dream”, Dr. King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. The Earnestine Starling Award was presented to the memory of James Franklin “Doc” Davis recognizing his work and dedication in the community.
The morning at the park began as Pastor Gregory Duffy welcomed those present. He stated that the community lunch was a 22 year tradition in Winnsboro but this was the first year for the parade. He thanked Pastor Rhonda …and HYPE for the leadership and planning for the parade.
Mayor Newsom stated to the crowd present, “The City of Winnsboro celebrates the lifelong work and unwavering commitment to peace and mutual understanding that Dr. King embodied… His mission to unify this country through respect and equality during a difficult time in our history serves as an important reminder for us that our words and actions can make a difference.” The mayor stated she will continue to heed Dr. King’s message of service, understanding, and mutual respect. She called for the citizens of Winnsboro to be unified, carry on Dr. King’s 50-year dream with dedication and courage.
“We need you to move this city forward!” stated Alderman Corning. He enthusiastically encouraged those present to get involved, attend council meetings, and serve on city committees. “You have a voice, come use it,” Corning invited.
Shavon Duffy, an organizer of H.Y.P.E., said the dream for the organization came after attending a community meeting in 1999. She and her parents, Rev. Gregory and Marsha Duffey, founded the non-profit organization as an African-American owned and operated 501.c.3. She said theri desire was to make a positive change for all low-income youth in Winnsboro and later to “…filter to surrounding communities.” H.Y.P.E. also assisted in creating Winnsboro’s MLK Park.
The goal of H.Y.P.E. “…is to provide scholarship opportunities to highly achieving high school seniors, assist with school supply drives for Kindergarten through 4th grade students, and to establish and maintain a tutoring program to help students achieve academic success.” The organization, assisted by Mrs. Gvahn Stewart, has provided Black History Educational Reference Books to all WISD schools. Mrs. Stewart is a retired teacher in the Abilene school system.
Ms. Duffy also noted the next community project for H.Y.P.E. is to help restore Rock Station on the corner of Connie Mae and Elm Streets. The donation of the building was assisted by Mrs. Earnestine Starling, who taught in Winnsboro schools for 41 years.
Dr. David Rose, Pastor of First Baptist Church Winnsboro, drew upon Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Rose said that some wondered why Dr. King, who lived in Atlanta, had come to Birmingham. He said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” There had been promises made by political leaders and business owners to end the segregation of blacks and whites. Those promises had not been kept. The black community had been told to wait, but King said, “‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never.’” King continued, “We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’”
Dr. Rose said, “[Dr. King] was labeled extreme, but he realized so many others were extreme. Jesus was extreme. He said to love your enemies. Paul was extreme. He was willing to suffer. Martin Luther was extreme. He stood up against the church leaders. Abraham Lincoln was extreme. The nation could not continue with slaves and freemen. He asked whether his readers would be extremists as well—for hatred or for love. Would they preserve injustice or be extremists for the cause of justice? Society has to work toward justice. Laws that uplift people and their value are just. Any law that degrades humanity is unjust. “An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that is not binding on itself.” Society works to build others up.