More than 100 Martin Luther King Jr. Day marchers poured into a packed Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church for the city’s annual celebration Monday.

Through songs and testimony, the message of organizers was all about love.

More specifically, the Rev. Tim Ingram from HighRidge Church delivered a keynote address focused on showing love and not just saying the word.

“Let us not love with just words but with deeds,” Ingram said to more than 200 guests from across Longview. “Love is the bridge between I and you. It has to express itself, and it has to be something tangible.”

The climactic speech culminated the annual celebration that began with the Longview High School ROTC leading dozens of people on a march from Broughton Park north to the Mount Olive church, where Christian songs and worship filled the walls.

Across East Texas

It was one of several observances of the holiday Monday across East Texas.

In Marshall, the day’s events began at noon with a parade, continued with a youth talent show and ended with a banquet at Marshall Convention Center.

“I loved it. I’ve always loved it,” said Paul Oliver, 66, who traveled from Longview for the event and watched the parade from the grounds of the Harrison County Courthouse. “It’s wonderful. That’s all I can describe: joyful.”

Tyler’s celebration drew cousins Angela Jackson and Alberta Davis from Henderson. Davis, 62, said she wanted to attend because King’s legacy is to help people and bring peace.

Jackson, 51, said King’s legacy brings hope.

“We can get together,” she said. “He (King) died for all of us.”

Donald Ravenell, 61, and his wife, Alma, of Tyler said they took part in the event for the first time. It’s a day they’ve been waiting for a long time.

“To see the people out here is beautiful — white, black, Hispanic, young and old,” he said. “That’s what the dream is all about.”

The celebration began with a parade that ended at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, where the main program featuring music and speakers was conducted.

In Longview, Mount Olive member Patricia Oliver, who was 11 years old when King was killed, said the annual observance is always significant to her and her church.

‘The dream’

“I was raised in that era, and the dream — to see us all coming together, all races and ages — that’s what it means,” she said as she recorded video of the marchers arriving from Mount Olive’s front steps.

“As I see them all coming down the street in all colors, that’s what it all means — peace,” Oliver said. “If we can’t do it but one day, let it be recognized on Martin Luther King’s day.”

Longview attorney Mike Lewis participated in the march before leaving to perform a community service — he volunteers to help people with their taxes as part of a Greater Longview United Way venture.

“MLK Day is a remembrance of the striving for social justice, and when people say that we’re striving for social justice, I believe that they are incorrect,” he said. “I think it’s an ongoing struggle, and I think that by coming to these events, it reminds you that it’s an ongoing struggle.”

The Longview Area Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance hosted the celebration Monday. Its president, the Rev. LaDarian Brown of Parkview Baptist Church, led the march and worship service.

The Longview Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop Association provided music, and an offering was collected for the alliance’s scholarship fund that will be awarded in October.

“It’s going to somebody in this community who is striving to do better,” the Rev. Lamar Jones said. “We believe in education. It costs money to get an education.”

Added the Rev. James Webb, “We all know there are a lot of scholars who are trying to move that intellectual ship, and in order to move that intellectual ship, you need M-O-N-E-Y.”

Each pastor in the alliance pledged to give at least $25, Jones said.

Showing love

Ingram’s address centered on 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, which he said is known as the love chapter.

“Love has to be expressed,” he said. “I don’t know that you can tell me you love me and not show me at some point.”

Ingram acknowledged the people he said are recognized as some of the pioneers of faith in the Longview community. Among them were Galilee Baptist Church pastor J.B. Dunlap, Mount Olive pastor J.D. Palmer, Red Oak Baptist Church pastor Homer Rockmore and Minister Ray Coates of HighRidge.

“Our best days are not behind us in this city,” Ingram said. “They are to come.”

Marie Edwards said she gained an appreciation from Ingram’s address that walking the talk about love isn’t a one-day thing but, instead, a 365-days-a-year thing, except during leap years, when it’s 366 days.

“So, you’ve got to walk the talk. I say I love you and then I don’t show you that I love you,” Edwards said shaking her head negatively. “I love you, so I’m going to participate with you. I’m going to walk the talk.”

Added Ingram, “Hope is in the room, but where is the love? Love unexpressed is hopeless.”

— This story includes information from Robin Y. Richardson in Marshall and Zak Wellerman in Tyler.