Outspoken pastor says Dr. King left a legacy of hope, but in Monroe, a legacy of trash, neglect, and violence makes it hard to be “Monroe Proud.”
“A testament of hope” was the theme of the Martin Luther King Day sermon by Rev. Oliver Billups, Jr. Monday night as he challenged Monroe city leadership to give the citizens a reason to hope rather than empty promises.
Rev. Billups was the featured speaker of the annual King Day observance of the local Martin Luther King Foundation program held this year at the Power House Church on Powell Avenue.
“Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen,” said Rev. Billups as he extolled the importance of Dr. King to African-Americans.
His words articulated the frustration of the people but gave them a feeling that their condition would not last forever. He said the fact that the nation celebrates Dr. King’s life and legacy gives evidence that his life was a “Testament of Hope.”
He talked of social conditions in Dr. King’s time, Billups awakened the audience when he narrowed his focus to Monroe and its peculiar issues.
With Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo and City Council Chairlady Juanita Woods in the audience, Billups spoke of the need for hope in Monroe in light of conditions that promote hopelessness.
“Let me bring it to Monroe and to Ouachita Parish. Like the Sanitation workers in Memphis, what about the workers in Monroe? What are their wages? What is the equipment they have to use to remove the refuse and garbage from our neighborhoods?
“What about those on the trash trucks? The news showed that the trucks were breaking down, and neighborhoods were filling up with trash and limbs and refuse everywhere. We all know that where there is garbage, there are rats, germs and disease, what about Monroe, La.?
“Why do we give money to other townships when our workers and our citizens’ condition could be made better?”
“Why do we boast of what we have, when our brothers and our sisters, and our sons and our daughters are being assaulted in dark places, and people are being killed along highways while we dangle like a carrot before the rabbit things that now come forward at re-election time?”
“Our children are killed, our women are raped in homes and cars and on the streets. Our sons are shot down like animals; many are left without shelter, and those who suffer from mental illness are on our street corners, crossing dangerous highways, causing us to almost run over them..where is our care? Where is our love? Where is our compassion for our brothers and our sisters?”
“I can’t be Monroe Proud while my brothers and sisters are homeless, under bridges, in alleyways.”
“What shall tomorrow bring?”
“We don’t need an arena; we need jobs! Jobs with a decent wage. Jobs with insurance. Jobs with benefits. We need honesty. We need forthrightness. We need compassion; we need love for one another.”
He said just as Martin Luther King’s life brought hope, “We too, my brothers and sisters must have a testament of hope that is deeply rooted in reliance on God’s blessing and God’s provision.”
Rev. Billups received a standing ovation after his message. Mayor Jamie Mayo Councilchairwoman Juanita Woods did not stand for the ovation.
The King Foundation presented its historic trailblazer award to Rotena Russell, wife of the late John Russell, Sr.
Earlier in the day were various King Day activities that included a Day of Service by the fraternities and sororities at ULM. Nearly 100 students volunteered at the local homeless shelter on Adams Street.
The annual King Day Parade was hosted by the King Foundation and featured local bands, political candidates, and floats.
Bone Krusher’s Martin Luther King Celebration hosted a youth King Day event at the WFR Church on the ULM campus. The celebration included speeches, musical performances, and recitations of the King speech food for the 200 or more attending.
Teens for the Dream, a youth group sponsored by Tab-N-Action, Inc., spent two days learning about Civil rights, civil disobedience, and non-violent protest that was advocated by Dr. King. They also attended the Brone Krusher King event on Monday.