41st Commemorative Program Features Judge Linda M. Dunson
By Will Johnson
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
CROCKETT – Community leaders, elected officials and other dignitaries gathered together in Crockett on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 15, to honor and pay tribute to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Held at the Crockett ISD Administrative Office Building Auditorium, the event was emceed by James Gentry and hosted by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee.
As the program got underway, Crockett High School junior Toreyan Jones led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance and the Pledge to the Texas Flag.
Once the pledges had been given, Rev. Earl Harris gave the invocation. He was followed by Crockett Mayor Joni Clonts who welcomed those in attendance and said it was always nice to have the opportunity to see the community come together as one to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy.
The mayor yielded the podium to Houston County District Attorney Donna Kaspar who brought greetings from the county. The DA also read a proclamation honoring the memory of Henry Ford Reece for his many years in education and community service. Reece passed away in April of 2018.
Following the proclamation, the audience was treated to a song entitled “Give Me Jesus,” as sung by Paula Wooten Lockhart, a mezzo soprano with the Houston Ebony Opera Guild. She was accompanied by former Crockett ISD Choir Director Lela Anderson.
As the program continued, the founder and chairperson of the committee, Roberta Mason, recognized several individuals who had served as previous keynote speakers at the event along with several other special guests.
After Mrs. Violet Jackson recognized the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee, Mason returned to the podium to lead those assembled for the celebration in a litany describing the struggles and victories achieved by Dr. King in the fight against injustice and racial bigotry.
The litany was followed by the return of Lockhart and Anderson to the stage with a performance of “The Impossible Dream.”
As the last notes of the song faded into the air inside of the auditorium, Houston County Attorney Daphne Session introduced the afternoon’s keynote speaker – Judge Linda M. Dunson of the 309th Family District Court in Houston.
Session said Judge Dunson was recently elected as part of the 17 African-American female judges elected in Harris County during the 2018 election.
Dunson grew up in extreme poverty, Session said, but fought her way out of it to attend the University of Houston (UH) where she received her Bachelor of Science degree with a double-major in psychology and sociology.
According to the county attorney, while attending UH, she became interested in pursuing a law degree after hearing several professors discussing minorities in a derogatory manner.
“She concluded that the social and psychological constructs that guided behavior also provided the foundation for our written laws. If the laws are written in such a way that favors one race over another race, it is clear how the law’s legal injustice contributes to social injustice and promotes a message of inferiority to minorities. She decided to position herself in the best possible place to affect social and psychological change. She became a lawyer,” Session said.
Dunson attended the Thurgood Marshal School of Law at Texas Southern University where she received several honors and awards before she graduated Mana Cum Laude with her law degree.
Once the introduction was complete, Dunson assumed the podium and expressed her gratitude to Session for her remarks and to the MLK Committee for requesting her to speak at the commemorative ceremony.
As she began, Dunson said while her gratitude and graciousness were genuine, that had not always been the case and related a story from her childhood about an Easter basket.
The judge said poverty was a way of life in her home but added when she was 11, her mother had worked very hard to buy her and her sister Easter baskets.
When her mother presented the Easter baskets to Dunson and her sister, the judge said her little sister was as excited as she could be, but added she was not feeling the excitement because she felt she was too big to carry the basket around.
“I let it be known that I was too old for an Easter basket. I would not be made fun of and I would not be taking that basket anywhere. My mom’s reply was, ‘I bought it and you’re taking it to school.’ My mother was mad,” Dunson said.
As she grew older, the judge said she had reflected on that moment many times and saw why her mom was upset. Dunson said her mom had to work extra to pay for the baskets “… and I’m sure she couldn’t wait to see the smiles on our faces on Easter morning. I spoiled that with my ungratefulness. I was more concerned with what people would think than to reciprocate a smile on my mom’s face.”
Dunson said she now realized the emotion she saw on her mom’s face that Easter morning was not one of anger but one of sadness.
She explained her mom had sacrificed much of her life to provide the basic necessities for her and her siblings.
“Another person has made many sacrifices for us, even the ultimate sacrifice, and we honor that person today – that is Dr. Martin Luther King,” Dunson said.
“He was such an instrumental person in bringing about the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. I am so grateful to Dr. King and several unnamed civil rights leaders who shed blood, sweat and tears and even sacrificed their families so that I might stand here today as one of the 17 newly elected, African-American, female judges in Harris County,” she said.
As she concluded, Dunson commented, “Today, I say to you, develop an attitude of being grateful for everything, knowing that your steps are worthy, knowing that you can overcome obstacles and keep moving forward. If you can’t fly, you can run. If you can’t walk, you can crawl. Whatever you do, keep moving forward and don’t forget to reach back and move others forward with you.”
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.