[Editor's Note: This article covers a portion of the Jan. 14 event.]
Photos and article by Mary Alice Murphy (Photos at the bottom of the article)
The main event on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024 to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.'s peace legacy took place at the Grant County Veterans Memorial Business and Conference Center.
Rosemary Dupray organized the event to have programs over the three days preceding the official Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Tables were set up for attendees to chat among themselves before the programs began on Sunday. Included in the program were several singers and speakers.
The first singing performance was by a group led by Maria Casler and introduced by Martha Egnal. They performed several numbers.
An unidentified speaker noted that Martin Luther King Jr. had to give his life trying to save others. "He was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness."
Rev. Earseye Ross, pastor of the Silver City Mountain View Church of Nazarene, was one of the featured speakers. Others were Toohayaysay, Chiricahua Apache and a lecturer at Western New Mexico University Native American Studies, and another later speaker was a representative of LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens).
Rev. Ross said that events "such as this one provide an opportunity to dwell together in unity."
He also noted he would answer questions. In the 1960s, Ross was active in the civil rights movement and knew King personally.
Ross said as a youth, he was good at drinking wine and chasing girls. "One caught me."
An audience member asked Ross what was the greatest challenge to his faith.
He replied that the greatest challenge was "denying myself and forgetting the things that God didn't think were nice. I was good at siphoning gas, and I did a lot of lying to get myself out of trouble."
To a question about the sacrifices he made to participate in the civil rights movement, he said: "a lot of us had to leave our homes and family. We didn't call it a march. We called it protesting because we couldn't look directly at a white person."
Ross grew up in Louisiana, when drinking fountains and restrooms were segregated and marked Colored and White.
He came to Silver City because there were no black folks. "At the Church of Nazarene we now have a few black folks, but the rest are white folks."
One participant asked if Ross had seen improvements over the years.
"In those days, many were workers and janitors," Ross said. "Now many are CEOs. We still see some discrepancies and some racism."
Another question he answered addressed the social aspects that still remain in the community.
"We need a Good Samaritan effort to be able to help anyone no matter their color," Ross replied. "Love your neighbor as yourself. That means everyone."
Toohayaysay asked what Ross's strategy was to change.
"I had to be educated to teach," he replied. "I surprised my mom and grandmother when I told them that they didn't have to follow the rules of segregation. They didn't think of it as injustice. In fact, a lot of black people didn't like what we were doing. That hurt me when I was trying to explain to them why we were doing it. But many black people were pulling us down."
To a question about why the blacks were against fixing inequities, Ross said: "A lot were fearing for their lives, but they didn't know it. We still have some people who believe in black supremacy and white supremacy. That's wrong."
A questioner asked if Ross, as a pastor, needs more patience with a white congregation.
"Being a pastor of any group of Christians is a challenge," Ross said. "God has a lot of kids and a lot of them are bad, but the Bible said to preach to all creatures. My church pastor and my mom said I wasn't ready to preach because I didn't know people. I said: 'In the eyes of God, everyone is the same.'"
When asked about the Freedom Riders, Ross said: "They were brave, but not too brave to be in sit-ins. There were consequences to being a freedom rider. Many got killed and others were put in jail. No one was allowed to do anything if someone spit on them."
A person asked about the changes Ross has seen in Grant County and what he hopes to see in the future.
"I started working at Fort Bayard Medical Center," Ross said. "I heard from one man who said when he said he couldn't speak English in school, his hand would get beat. Since I've been here, we've not experienced any of that."
Next his daughter Rachel Ross sang several moving songs.
Other performers, who would sing later in the program included Angelica Padilla and Keana Huerta.
To pause the slide show, mouse over the image.