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Springdale MLK parade set for Monday

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Photographs by Staton Breidenthal

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/STATON BREIDENTHAL --1/19/15-- The 31st annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day “Marade” parade Monday morning in Little Rock.

SPRINGDALE -- Alice Gachuzo-Colin organized a parade for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, she said, because Springdale deserves it.

"This city embodies Dr. King's principles and should celebrate that day," she said.

State holiday

This year marks the first time Arkansas will celebrate the third Monday in January solely to honor Martin Luther King Jr. In 1985, the state designated the holiday to celebrate the birthdays of both King and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Act 561 of 2017 reserved the date of the federal holiday to honor King alone.

Source: Staff report

MLK DAY EVENTS

These public events are planned in Northwest Arkansas in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

• Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon: Community service project, Yvonne Richardson Center, 240 E. Rock St., Fayetteville. Information: 435-1393.

• Sunday, 3 p.m.: Memorial service, St. James Missionary Baptist Church, 764 W. North St., Fayetteville. Roderick L. Smothers, president of Philander Smith College, featured speaker.

• Monday, 8 a.m.: MLK Dream Keepers' youth prayer breakfast, Janelle Y. Hembree Alumni House, 491 N. Razorback Road, Fayetteville.

• Monday, 9:30 a.m.: MLK Dream Keepers' youth activity, University of Arkansas' Health, Physical Education and Recreation Building, Fayetteville.

• Monday 11 a.m.- 3 p.m.: Inaugural MLK parade and unity celebration starting at Parsons Stadium, Springdale. D'Andre Jones, NWA Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Council, featured speaker.

• Monday, 11:15 a.m.: MLK Freedom March, start at corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Razorback Road, Fayetteville. Inclement weather location, University of Arkansas Union, Verizon Ballroom.

• Monday, noon: Vigil, University of Arkansas Union, Verizon Ballroom

• Monday, 7 p.m.: 21st Annual Recommitment Banquet, Town Center, 15 W. Mountain St., Fayetteville. the Rev. R. Janae Pitts-Murdock, First Christian Church of Rogers, featured speaker.

• Jan. 25, noon: Presentation at Northwest Arkansas Community College, 1 College Drive, Bentonville. Pearl Dowe, associate professor and chairwoman of the Department of Political Science at the University of Arkansas, featured speaker.

Source: Staff report

Monday's parade will start at 11 a.m. and go west on Emma Avenue from Parsons Stadium to Luther George Park. Music, speeches and a barbecue are planned at the park. The event ends at 3 p.m.

Gachuzo-Colin has lived in Springdale since she was a 14-year-old black girl from upstate New York. She arrived in 1994 with her black mother, white stepfather and two black siblings. Springdale wasn't the diverse and welcoming city then it has become, she said.

"I was one of two black students in a high school graduating class of almost 600," Gachuzo-Colin said. There were no other interracial couples in town besides her parents that she knew of, she said. "I didn't know the rules -- that I wasn't supposed to like white boys and they were not supposed to like me, for example."

People called her names she had never heard in New York state, she said.

"Lord, how this place has changed," she said Tuesday. That change goes far beyond having more residents of different skin tones and backgrounds, she said. The degree of acceptance residents extend each other these days has changed more dramatically than the town's ethnic makeup, she said.

This optimistic shift will be a theme of his remarks, said D'Andre Jones of the Northwest Arkansas MLK Council and one of the invited speakers for Springdale's celebration.

"It's about the process of going from protesting civil wrongs to supporting civil rights," he said Thursday.

Jones praised Gachuzo-Colin's ability in organizing the parade, especially since she isn't an experienced community activist. She is filling a real need, he said.

"Now Springdale is a city of inclusion and that needs to be recognized," he said.

According to the 2000 Census, 81.6 percent of Springdale's population was white and non-Hispanic. By 2016, the latest estimate available from the U.S. Census Bureau, that figure was 63.2 percent.

The lack of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade was a gap left over from a bygone era, Gachuzo-Colin said.

"People think it's a black people's holiday," she said. "It's really about justice and love for everyone, and that's what this city has."

Springdale and Har-Ber high school bands will perform, Gachuzo-Colin said. The Marshallese Coalition of Arkansas will perform a traditional dance.

"The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is felt every day around the country, including in Springdale," Mayor Doug Sprouse said. "Our diverse community represents the dream of Dr. King, and I am glad Ms. Gachuzo-Colin organized an event in his honor. My office is looking forward to celebrating with the community on Monday."

Gachuzo-Colin isn't trying to forget how she was treated as a teenager, she said. Someone cannot see how far things have progressed without memories like that.

"People say, 'But it used to be a sundown town,'" she said, referring to a term from the segregation era about towns where black visitors were well-advised to leave while it was still daylight.

"You know what the most important words are in that sentence," she said. "The words 'used to be.'"

NW News on 01/12/2018

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