NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The Monday morning rain showers could not keep Nacogdoches residents from gathering to honor the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
King was known for his non-violent protests during the Civil Rights movement. The Nacogdoches Progressive Leadership group preached the same message at Monday's event, which saw crowds march through downtown to the Nacogdoches County Courthouse to hear several speakers.
Not lost on the crowd is the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump this Friday. Several in attendance spoke of a racism they feel still exists in this country and about the new president.
"Trump and his appointees said they would give two different things to two different groups of people," said Nacogdoches activist John L. Davis IV. "For white folks, they promise jobs and security and for people of color, they promise more jail and less rights."
One woman sitting in the crowd listening to Davis speak was Pat Castella. Castella is a Democrat in Nacogdoches that grew up in Philadelphia during the Civil Rights movement. It's a fight she says she is still fighting.
"I don't believe I am on the other side of it because of my skin color," Castella said. "I don't believe it is about skin color. I believe it is about where your soul is and where your belief is.We were doing this in Philadelphia when they had the riots and the gangs, and we stood strong."
Castella was a delegate for the Democratic National Convention this past year. At 75, she has lived through many elections. This one is the reason she is most worried she has been about the outcome when it comes to the work of Dr. King.
"For me it is not about party," Castella said. "I will love you no matter who you voted for, but you have to stand up for what you believe in, and this is the first time in all my years that I have been involved in politics that I feared who the president would be."
Davis believes thew work of King and others could be in jeopardy.
"It would be an insult to the work and legacy of our ancestors to say that we haven't made progress through out the years but the reality is as Michelle Alexander put it, we are living in the new Jim Crow laws in the age of mass incarceration," Davis said. "Not just for black men but for the poor and indigenous people as well. We need to continue to fight and preserve all the progress that we have made."
Also speaking at the event today was St. James Baptist Church's pastor Leonard Sweat. Sweat grew up in the Pineywoods during King's movement and believes the nation has come a long way but still has more room to grow. Sweat said he is putting his faith to practice and relying on God.
"There are those that still want to be separated, but there are those that want to be on one accord," Sweat said. "Sometimes things happen in our lifetime that help us understand that we need to get closer to our God."
While still worried about the current race issue in America, Stephen F. Austin State University student Joshua Roy is trying to rely on what he has learned from King in shaping the future.
"We can build something new up and something stronger than what Dr. King had, not just a dream but a reality," Roy said. "Going forward, if they have any issues with President Trump, they should hold him accountable. Don't go to violent tantrums or anything like that. Hold Trump and the people you elect into office accountable from here on out."
After the rally, people dispersed all across the city take part in a day of service. The volunteers from the community and SFA worked on projects to clean up the city and surrounding areas They also worked in areas like the Clay House, which is a state historical site that has been labeled as endangered by the state. Students from SFA started the work to help locate the brick supports that once held up an outdoor porch.
"Dr. King was a bigger-than-life figure," said African American Heritage Project President Jo West. "He supported non-violence. He supported working in our community which we still need. We need to also honor Dr. Martin Luther King in these days and time more than ever."
The demonstrations across the nation took place while Trump met with King's son in New York, according to the Associated Press. The meeting was described as productive,and King's daughter spoke at his church in Atlanta where she said everyone needs to work together to advance King's dream no matter who the president is, the AP story said,