Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
LaDarius Garner almost dropped out of high school. He wanted to walk out the doors. Among teachers, he was considered a rebellious student and spent more than two years in a juvenile detention facility.
“I got used to the sounds of screaming at night, doors slamming, staff yelling,” he said on Jan. 21 at the Irving-Carrollton Branch NAACP MLK Annual Luncheon. “There’s no such thing as sleep in jail.”
Then something changed. On Jan. 22, the former Irving ISD student began classes Mountain View Community College.
“I broke the chain. I broke the handcuffs. I learned that I am facing what other men have met,” he said. “Just because you’re having a hard time now, doesn’t mean it has to always be hard.”
Garner’s message was part of the City’s celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. day. This year, the luncheon’s theme was “Children Convicted for Service” and featured a team of students serving the food, addressing the crowd and overseeing the event.
“This is about one of the greatest Americans that ever lived,” Maurice Walker, parent involvement coordinator for the Irving Independent School District, said. “This program will be a testament to the fact that when given an opportunity, African-Americans can excel. Today is a great example of that. Today our young people shine.”
As part of the program, elementary, middle and high school students took to the stage to greet attendees, to sing and to read poetry. The event closed with a reading of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech from Zederic Stephenson, a seventh grade student from Grand Prairie.
“You guys have done a great job with your children,” Tony Grimes, president of the Irving-Carrollton NAACP chapter, told parents. “Thank you so much for what you do.”
The annual Martin Luther King, Jr. luncheon has taken place since 2004. Next month, the Irving Black Arts Council will present “The Diaspora: From the Motherland to the Homeland,” an exhibition highlighting the life and culture of African and African-American artists. The exhibit starts Feb. 1 and runs through the end of the month at the Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd.
Then on Feb. 24, the Council in partnership with the City of Irving will present a Black History Month program at 3 p.m. at the Irving Arts Center.