WAXAHACHIE

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March and Parade is returning to Waxahachie next Monday, and the event’s organizers hope this will be the best one yet.

“This year, we are working hand-in-hand with the community to make this celebration better than before,” said Betty Square-Jefferson, president of NAACP Waxahachie branch 6250. Square-Jefferson annual helps to ensure the celebration is well-planned. “You find out from the world we live in today that these parades are still necessary. It’s not just a black issue. It’s a human issue.”

Event organizers said the goal of the unity march is not only to celebrate the life of King but to remember his teachings and apply them to the everyday life.

Dr. Jamal Rasheed, Director of the African American Hall of Fame, is another one of the integral members who organize the event. Rasheed said he hopes the march sparks a discussion that will bring lasting change to the community.

“I hope the unity march will bridge the individual and invisible gap that has been present for years,” Rasheed said. “There is a divide in Waxahachie, and people don’t talk about it. The teachings of Martin Luther King will bring people of all races together under one Waxahachie.”

The march begins at 1 p.m. Monday at Turner Middle School. From there, participants will walk north on Getzendaner Street to Peter Street. Once there, they will continue west on Peter Street, make a left on Wyatt Street and proceed to MLK Jr. Boulevard where participants will continue west until they reach the Ellis County Courthouse.

Rasheed said the march isn’t about being black or white, but aiming to bring unity, justice, and equality to everyone in the community.

“Those are the key problems now more than ever before,” he said. “These problems used to be covert, but now they’re overt. When you look at sentencing inequality, the amount of poor people in today’s society, or homeless people, or people without jobs it becomes apparent this isn’t just black people.”

At the courthouse, there will be a 30-minute memorial ceremony in honor of King.

Following the presentation, participants will march to Samaria Baptist Church, located at 508 E. MLK JR Blvd., where the church bell will ring 50 times to commemorate the 50th anniversary year of King’s death at 3 p.m.

There will also be a program of reflection with guest speaker Ed Gray, a journalist and political commentator for WFAA Channel 8 news, at the church.

During the church program, Pastor Ron Bellomy of Frist United Methodist Church of Waxahachie and Pastor Justin Barker of El Bethel Baptist Church Waxahachie will both be honored with the first-ever Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Awards. This award recognizes their efforts in uniting the people of all races and walks of life in the community over the last year.

April 4 will mark the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination. King was a prominent civil rights activist in during the American Civil Rights Movement during the mid-1950s. King preached equality for all races, the economically disadvantaged and victims of injustice through peaceful protests.

The event is sponsored by the Waxahachie Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Parade and Program Group, the Ellis County African American Hall of Fame, the Bethesda Masonic Lodge No. 168, Samaria Missionary Baptist Church, and the Waxahachie Branch of the NAACP.