As he sat on the steps of a house on the corner of Wyatt and MLK Jr. Boulevard, RJ Polk was greeted by young girls handing out candy and candidates running for political offices. Yet, they were all passing by for the same cause — unity.
He was born and raised in Waxahachie but has been living in the small town again for the past seven years.
What Polk saw on Monday afternoon was residents of Waxahachie — on foot and in vehicles — marching from Turner Middle School to the Ellis County Courthouse in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Numerous individuals, organizations, churches, and politicians participated in the effort to bridge the gap of racism. This year marks 50 years since the civic leader and visionary was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee.
Polk said he participated in viewing the march because “I stand for the man that fought for this right. Also, he opened up a whole lot of doors for the black and the poor.”
Since he’s been back in Waxahachie, Polk agreed there has been a positive change in the relation of racism and equality throughout the community. He described people in the past being “grudge-hearted,” and that “as the world changes, people changed with it.”
On the other side of the street was Damell Walker who’s lived in Waxahachie since birth — 31 years. In his eyes, racism and equality haven’t changed much since the days of King.
“Being in this neighborhood, we are predominately black so we do get more of the harassment from the other side,” Walker explained. “But this is a tight-knit community; we are here for each other. While we are standing out here, this is the first time we’ve seen this stuff come down this street.”
He added, “Everybody is going to say ‘change’ up and down this road all day while this march is going. Nothing is going to change. We are still going to be here today and tomorrow.”
As the march made its way down MLK Jr. Boulevard, Daphne Livingston was found watching the many passersby. She’s lived in Waxahachie for all 52 years of her life.
Watching the march, Livingston said, “Well now everyone has come together, it used to be segregated. So everyone that has come together is astounding. It used to be that blacks did not communicate with the whites.”
Livingston has been a victim of racism in the past, explaining she has predominantly felt those tensions from members of the police department. She does, however, believe the town has gone through the obstacles, creating a more unified community.
As the march neared the courthouse, Dr. Jamal Rasheed, director of the African American Hall of Fame, answered the question of how to eliminate racism.
Simply put, Rasheed stated the golden rule, “Treat others the way you would like to be treated. That’s the first step. If you want people to treat you right, you treat them right, and that process begins, and then the dialogue begins.”
The sheer variety of people who participated and watched the march proved to Rasheed that the community at-large is ready, or at least attempting, to bridge the racial gap. He used the railroad track as a symbol that represents the dividing line not only for race but opportunity and education.
Walking tall, Malik Muhammad, a representative of Minister Louis Farrakhan, took each stride honoring the late Dr. King.
“It’s been absolutely wonderful to see the people come out and be apart of the march to honor the late, great Martin Luther King Jr. and most importantly we have the opportunity to share with them some of the things that we know,” Muhammad said.
He mentioned that this was the first time the march has taken this route and that the attitude of the marchers was positive and that those watching are “absolutely ecstatic.”
As everyone gathered at the Ellis County Courthouse at the end of the march, in the crowd was a Southwestern Assemblies of God student, Emily Sullivan. She’s lived in Waxahachie intermittently for three years as a student and said, even though she cannot relate to racism, she participated to show her support for the community.
Sullivan said she believes love and understanding need to be communicated in order to accomplish equality and end racism.
“Understanding that, even if you can’t speak to an experience, that doesn’t mean it’s not happening,” Sullivan said.
Christina Ward and her two children also stood on the courthouse grounds. She said it was her adopted son that urged her to participate in the march.
“We want to make sure he grows up knowing his culture, where he comes from and how much his community loves everyone,” Sullivan explained.
Her family moved to Waxahachie two years ago to get away from racism. She said the community here has proven to be accepting. To her, Martin Luther King Jr. Day means “love, equality and peace. It’s people standing up for what’s right in America and around the world.”
At the courthouse there was a memorial ceremony of King and a select number of pastors shared their words of the power of praying together, pushing forward and standing up against evil.
The event was 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.
For the photo gallery of the MLK march, click here.
*This article has been updated from its original version to read this year marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther Kings Jr.'s assassination. Monday was not the 50th anniversary of his death, as previously stated.