Also in the story, Lewis Peña, who said the opening prayer, was not in a wheel chair. He was pushing a lady in a wheelchair.
“All the leaders of the community, all the saints and all the children are here today,” said the Rev. Roy Oliver from the pulpit at Union Baptist Church.
The church filled quickly after the six-block commemorative march from Refugio City Hall – all with one common purpose – to honor the man who planted a dream of equality through nonviolence into the heart of humanity and paid the ultimate sacrifice, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“A lot of people had to die for what many of our young people take for granted,” said Frank Hosey. who was 7 1/2 years old in 1968 when an assassin’s bullet found its mark at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.
Hosey was attending Barefield, the black school on the east end of Commons Street, by choice, as did many other black children. Refugio had already integrated the high school in 1956 and the remainder of the schools by the 1960s.
“It was our neighborhood school,” he said. “That’s where my mother enrolled me and it was a choice.”
When Barefield closed its doors for good, Hosey went to Stricklin Primary without fanfare and without incident. Refugio was ahead of its time in that respect, Hosey said.
The holiday is a day for many to reflect the changes King embraced.
“The 1960s were the best of times and in many ways, the worst – Vietnam and the civil rights movement; yet we were innocent in a lot of ways that children today are not.”
The march from city hall went slowly at times, more difficult for some than others.
Wheelchairs and walkers helped a few traverse the uneven pavement, all through sheer determination.
“I made it last year and I’ll make it again this year,” said Linda Madkins, using her walker. “This march is important because Martin Luther King Jr. died for us and it’s important to keep up progress.”
Some of the older marchers, many who lived through the civil rights movement, locked arms for stability and were steadied by loved ones.
Lewis Peña, confined to a wheelchair, said the opening prayer to commence the march, thanking God for the sunshine, the balmy weather, the perfect day.
Sean Dukes, an RHS athlete, was there for his second march.
“We need to recognize his dream is still alive,” Sean said.
At the church, Sean accompanied pianist Mary Green on the drums, and voices filled the church with “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Most of the children scattered throughout the church were still unborn during the civil rights movement.
“They need to know about the struggle we had,” said Wanda Dukes, Sean’s grandmother and event organizer.
Patty Lewis, also a grandmother, told the crowd that she was astounded that her 6-year-old grandson, Jaylon, conversed at the family dinner table about Dr. King’s sacrifices and his work.
A kindergartner, Jaylon said he learned about King at school.
“Today, we can see what Martin Luther King Jr. preached about,” said Jerry Lewis at the pulpit. “We can see what our kids can look forward to.”
Mayor Rey Jaso told the crowd that years of planning and prayer paved the way to the commemorative march and banquet.
“Next year, we might surprise everyone with a parade so people from other towns can come and spend the day,” Jaso said.
Jaso went on to say that people from other places should use Refugio as an example of solidarity.
Hosey left the youths throughout the church with a closing message.
“I want all of you to stay in school and get an education, Dr. King died for this simple thing that we take for granted. You can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.”