The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
A group of about 50 people in Port Arthur braved light rain as they participated in the Trayvon Martin National Unity March for Justice on Saturday.
The group came together at Kelly’s Kitchen on Austin Avenue, where they heard remarks by the Rev. Jack Chatman and environmentalist Hilton Kelley before heading out for the march to the Jefferson County Sub-courthouse on Fourth Street.
The central message of supporting peace while working for a change came from a number of different speakers and made an impression on those in attendance.
Lawrence Getwood Jr. sat on a bench, his two sons Taylor Getwood III and Tayvion Getwood seated on his lap. The father makes it a point to be active in his children’s lives, he said, including school work and church. He brought his sons to the march so they can see history in the making in a positive light.
“I want them to know they don’t have to use their fists or guns,” Getwood said. “They can use words. Words are powerful.”
LaNell Fields was on hand with Tobias James and children Jakaylon James, 11, Brianna James, 10, and Tomarius James, 13.
“We’re here to support Trayvon Martin,” Fields said. “We don’t want something like that to happen to our kids.”
Discussion during the march turned toward the unfairness of the “stand your ground” laws in which a person can defend themselves without requirement to retreat from a dangerous situation.
“I’m standing here for all the Trayvon Martin’s; black, white, purple, green. On behalf of the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, all those who were affected by this,” Port Arthur Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince, said before stating the “stand your ground” law is “not a good thing.” “Over 30 states have adopted that law and the State of Texas’ isn’t that much different.”
Prince advised attendees to take their passion for a change and use it constructively by contacting legislators.
“Don’t let this passion you have create violence, because that only creates more violence,” she said. “Don’t let it fester and turn into hatred and don’t allow this to make you into something you’re not or you’ll become a stat out on Highway 69 or at Live Oak (Cemetery).”
Chatman introduced Warnette Senegal, whose son, Marcus John “Big Country” Senegal, 29, was shot and killed several months ago. He noted there was no big public outcry for Big Country’s death likely because it was black-on-black crime.
“I just buried my son three months ago,” Senegal said as she fought back tears. “The little one (grandchild) in green was upset last night because she wanted to see her daddy. I said ‘sweetie, daddy’s not coming home again.’ He won’t be there to hold her. Won’t be there to protect her and I may not be her either. This is hard for me.”
Senegal suffered a heart attack after her son’s death. She said she is trying to stay strong for the grandchildren because she needs them just as they need her.
“Talk to your kids. Don’t mess with guns and don’t let them hang out with the wrong people,” she said. “I have two locked up and one in the ground. I wonder how much stronger I can be.”
Port Arthur Councilman Kerry “Twin” Thomas remembers a time at the age of 15 when he and his twin were walking to the store for their mother at 9 p.m. and were stopped by a police officer who accused them of pulling on doors.
“Thirty years later and the same thing is still happening,” Thomas said.
Thomas urges peaceful protests by all races, not just the black community.
“George Zimmerman may not be in prison, but now he’ll know how the black man feels,” Thomas said while describing scenarios when a black person is stared at when entering a room or can’t get a job because of past crimes.
“You didn’t know that by killing this young teenager you’d be walking in his shoes,” he said.
Chatman, “not wanting to downplay Trayvon Martin’s life” by changing topics, told the group to be vigilant and proactive especially in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down section 4 of the Civil Rights Act.
“Civil rights is not just about us blacks, but Mexicans, white, all of us,” Chatman said.