Happy Martin Luther King Day 2022!

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

As a chilly dawn breaks over Southeast Texas, a billboard with an image of Dr. King and one of his most famous quotes can be seen rising over eastbound Interstate 10, just a few miles west of the Louisiana border.

The image stands on MLK Dr., one of the main arteries of Orange, Texas where Tracie grew up and where we often visit our family with our children, ages 8 and 10.

Our girls, Georgia and Lila Jane, know a lot about Dr. King, his life and legacy. They know that only a generation ago he fought for all Americans to enjoy the freedoms of living in a democracy. They know that he ultimately gave his life in his ceaseless efforts to make our country a true democracy, one where all people, regardless of their color, could live without fear of authoritarian violence and suppression.

They know little of the insidious efforts of neo-Confederates like the Sons of Confederates Veterans who unveiled a newly built monument along MLK Dr. in Orange in the shadow of I-10 in 2017.

They know little of the Sons’ main propagandists, the Kennedy brothers, who sell their books on the Sons’ website — books like Was Jefferson Davis Right?, Rekilling Lincoln, and The South Was Right (also available on Amazon).

They know little of how their neo-Confederate foot soldiers, like the ones who raised the monument in Orange, claim to be merely celebrating their “heritage” and “history,” as they like to put it.

They know little of the historic, collective suffering the Black community in Orange has endured for generations since slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow.

They know little of the pain that residents, Black and White, feel when they drive past the Sons’ neo-Confederate memorial when they drive to work each day.

Georgia and Lila Jane drove by those flags just a few months ago when they attended their great-grandmothers funeral. She worshipped at a church just a few miles up the road from the monument. Between the church and graveside services and then the reception that followed, they passed by the site four times. But they hardly know what those flags mean and what they represent to the people who live here.

They do know that their parents, with the help of generous donors, have raised the billboard that today appears across the road. They know that each year their family visits Orange on MLK Day to march in the city’s historic MLK Day parade (now on hold because of health concerns). They remember that they themselves have marched in that parade in years past.

Happy MLK Day! Please check out Jelani Cobb’s excellent essay for the New Yorker this week, “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s History Lessons.”

Tracie and I share our heartfelt thanks with everyone who contributed to our Go Fund Me campaign to raise the billboard this year. It was first posted on Friday and will remain in place throughout Black History Month (February).

Jeremy Parzen
co-founder of Repurpose Repurpose Memorial

Help us raise an MLK billboard overlooking the neo-Confederate memorial in Orange, Texas.

There will be no protest this MLK Day because of health concerns but please consider giving to our campaign to raise an MLK billboard overlooking the neo-Confederate memorial in Orange, Texas.

The billboard will be posted next Friday (before MLK Day) and will remain in place throughout February, Black History Month.

Thank you. And even if you can’t give, please consider sharing the GoFundMe on social media. Thank you for your support and solidarity.

Here’s the link. Thank you.

MLK Day 2021 Parade, Monday, January 18, 2021.

The last MLK Day parade was held in Orange in January 2018.

Please join Repurpose Memorial on January 18, 2021 in the Martin Luther King Day Parade in Orange, Texas.

The parade will begin at Solomon Johnson Park at 10 a.m. and end at the Heritage House Museum.

Co-organizer Impact Orange and Repurpose Memorial have been working closely with the City of Orange to ensure that we can march safely.

We’re going to be requiring marchers to wear masks and socially distance. We’ll be asking people to form groups of no more than 10 persons, ideally from the same household, and then we’ll coordinate the timing of each group’s start time so that they can socially distance from other groups. We will also have free masks to distribute.

There will be no speeches or gathering at the end of the march. We’ll simply disassemble at the end point.

Our heartfelt thanks goes out to the City of Orange for their help in making this possible (they have been awesome to deal with).

Heartfelt thanks also to everyone who donated to our GoFundMe campaign to raise money for our special events insurance policy. We raised more than our $500 goal. The extra money will go to masks, bottled water, and hand sanitizer to distribute at the march. The campaign is still active if you’d like to contribute.

That’s a photo of Solomon Johnson below (it comes from the Portal to Texas History via the Heritage House Museum in Orange). The park where the march will begin is named after him.

According to the Orange Leader:

    Solomon Johnson was an Orange native who served as president of the Civic Betterment League for 22 years and was referred to as the “bronze mayor” for several years. As “bronze mayor” he attended city council meetings to represent his people in the community even though he was not allowed to vote. He also lead delegates to the Texas Negro Chamber of Commerce and the National Negro Business League. It was during his time as president, the first black police officer was hired. At that time, the officer was only allowed to arrest black offenders.

On January 18, 2021, as we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King, we will also honor the many civil rights activists from Orange who have fought for justice and equity over the years. We hope you can join us. (See this Orange Leader article to learn more about some of those community leaders.)

MLK Day 2021 Parade fundraiser. Thank you for your support.

Please donate to our GoFundMe here.

RepurposeMemorial.com  has joined forces with Impact Orange founder MaQuettia Ledet to organize the 2021 Martin Luther Kind Day Parade in Orange, Texas.

On MLK Day 2021 (January 18), at 10 a.m., marchers will walk from Solomon Johnson Park  to the steps of the Heritage House Museum in Orange.

All marchers will be asked to wear face masks and to social distance. At the end of the route, the marchers will be asked to disassemble. There will be no speeches or presentations at the end of the parade.

All necessary permissions have been obtained from the City of Orange and the Orange Mayor’s office. And the Orange Heritage House Museum has agreed to let marchers disassemble in front of the museum.

This fundraiser will pay for the special events insurance policy, which covers the marchers and the City of Orange. The insurance is the only element not yet in place.

The historic MLK Day Parade, a beloved Orange tradition, has not been held since 2018.

Repurpose Memorial and Impact Orange are pleased to revive this cherished event and to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thank you for your support. We hope you will be able to join us as we celebrate the life and work of Dr. King.

Please donate to our GoFundMe here.

“The time is always right to do right.”

—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”
June, 1965

Read the speech in its entirety here.

Black Lives Matter over newly built neo-Confederate memorial in Orange, Texas.

Earlier this month, RepurposeMemorial.com posted its latest billboard across from the newly built neo-Confederate memorial in Orange, Texas where Tracie grew up.

We are happy to report that “Black Lives Matter” currently looks down on the site from across the road.

Tracie and I launched RepurposeMemorial.com in January, 2018 (we began protesting the site in November 2017 after the neo-Confederates began displaying their flags there for the first time). Since that time, we have repeatedly asked the Sons of Confederate Veterans (the neo-Confederate and outwardly racist group behind the memorial) to enter into dialog with us about how the memorial could be repurposed (not torn down) to reflect community values in a city where nearly half the residents are black and where there is a sordid legacy of racist violence.

So far, the Sons have responded with threats of violence and trolling.

The billboard was made possible through our ongoing GoFundMe campaign. Thanks to the generosity of donors, we were able to secure the billboard for six months. This is the second billboard we’ve published since we inked our latest contract.

We hope to raise enough money to renew the contract by the time it expires in January, 2021 (right before Martin Luther King Day).

The “Confederate Memorial of the Wind” stands on Martin Luther King Dr., one of the city’s main arteries. Construction on the site began in 2015 and the neo-Confederates began displaying their flags there in late 2017 (not long after the notorious neo-Nazi and neo-Confederate march in Charlottesville, Virginia).

The response to the new billboard has been overwhelmingly positive.

Heartfelt thanks to Orange native designer Ashley Evans for creating the artwork and to Beaumont-based photographer Pete Churton for the photo above.

And thank you to everyone who contributed to our campaign: none of this would be possible without you!

Jeremy Parzen

Thank you for helping us raise our billboard overlooking the memorial for the next 6 months!

Thanks to your generosity and solidarity (via our GoFundMe), we were able to purchase 6 months of advertising space for the price of 5. With our new contract, our billboards will be appearing through the end of the year and MLK Day 2021. Over the course of our now 3-year campaign to repurpose the site, countless Orange residents have written us to express their support for our efforts. Every time a mother or father drives down MLK Dr. (a main artery) in Orange to take their children to school, they see our billboard across from the memorial. We hope it is a reminder to them that the overwhelming majority of Orange residents oppose the conspicuous display of Confederate iconography in their city. The billboard wouldn’t be possible without you. Please see the new artwork below. I’ve also included a photo from our last protest in June. In the background you can see the billboard that was made possible by our previous round of fund raising. Tracie and I would like to share our heartfelt thanks with you for donating to our campaign.

City Attorney: “The City Council has always been opposed to the existence of the Memorial in Orange.”

“The City Council has always been opposed to the existence of the Memorial in Orange,” writes Orange, Texas city attorney John Cash Smith in an op-ed published yesterday by the Orange Leader, the city’s paper of record.

Read Mr. Smith’s letter to learn what steps the city has taken to hinder the site’s visibility.

Please donate to our GoFundMe campaign to raise an MLK billboard overlooking the newly built Confederate memorial in Orange, Texas.

No violence but tensions high at our Saturday protest of the Confederate memorial in Orange, Texas. Thank you Orange PD for keeping us safe.

Above: Tracie and her friend LaToya at the Saturday, June 13 protest of the Confederate memorial in Orange, Texas where Tracie and LaToya both grew up and attended high school together.

Despite threats of violence and rumors that “Antifa” would be at our Saturday protest of the Confederate memorial in Orange, Texas, our demonstration was peaceful and without incident.

You can watch footage of the event, including interviews, here on the local Fox affiliate.

And one of the local papers of record, the Beaumont Enterprise, filed this report, including a slide show of photos taken at the protest.

We’ve been protesting the site since 2017 but this was the first time that Sons of Confederate Veterans and their supporters appeared at one of our gatherings. Some of them drove up to three hours to be there. Apparently, they were answering a “call to arms” by social media users who believed we were there to tear down their memorial.

We have never advocated for it to be destroyed. From day one, we have asked for it to be repurposed and we have called for the Sons of Confederate Veterans to enter into dialog with us about how this site is impacting the community. The name of our campaign and our website is RepurposeMemorial.

Given the alarming tone of the rumors being spread on social media, it’s likely that they were heavily armed. And they were drinking alcohol throughout the morning while we were there.

One of our members also received a direct threat from a co-worker, a middle-aged white man who said he would use us as “target practice.” Evidently, he was already being tracked by local authorities for previous threats of violence. They were so concerned about him that they sent police to our member’s home and to his home as well. And they decided to have a robust police presence at the event.

Tracie and I would like to share our heartfelt thanks with Orange Mayor Larry Spears, Orange County Judge John Gothia, and the Orange Police Department for keeping us all safe on Saturday.

After the protest ended, Tracie and I spoke to some of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and their supporters. As they always do, they claimed that the Confederate flag was not a racist or divisive symbol. Nothing new on that front. But this was the first time that any of them even spoke to us or listened to our position. I hope it’s an “opening,” a chance for us to start talking about how they “celebrate their ancestors” without offending black residents’ sense of belonging.

Thank you also to everyone who has sent notes of support and solidarity. And thanks to everyone who has given to our ongoing GoFundMe campaign to raise our Martin Luther King billboard, overlooking the site, for an entire year.

In the past, we’ve bought one-month stretches of advertising (thanks to the generosity of donors). You can see the current billboard below. We are currently working on a new billboard and once we raise the funds, we plan to have a series of billboards appearing over the course of 52 weeks.

Please click here to give.

Thank you for your support. We’re not giving up this fight. Ever. Thank you.

Threats of violence and fear mongering will not stop us from protesting the Confederate monument in Orange, Texas today.

Threats of violence and fear mongering will not deter our protest of the Confederate monument in Orange, Texas today (see protest details here).

Yesterday, one of our protest organizers was threatened with violence by one of her co-workers.

Here’s what she wrote on her Facebook:

    A couple coworkers asked for the address and when I gave them the address one of my middle-aged white coworkers spoke out & said, “Good. This will make good for Target practice. I can use the practice.”

Locally based white supremacists have also been posting threatening messages like the one below on social media.

I have been in touch with local authorities and they have provided protection for our organizer (she is safe and secure and Tracie and I will be visiting with her later today).

And the same officials have also assured me that police will be present at today’s demonstration to keep the peace in case white supremacist agitators confront us.

A number of our fellow protesters have already told us that they don’t feel safe coming out today. We completely understand and support their decision not to stand with us.

Anyone who would like to contact me can reach me by phone at (917) 405-3426. Please be patient if I don’t answer immediately. I’ll get back to you asap.

Tracie and I will be there today from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Please join us if you can. And please remember that everyone’s safety is more important than anything else.