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Leander uses MLK's message to bring diverse community together

A group of people march down a street with signs.
Kailey Hunt
Marchers participate in Leander's second annual MLK Day March and Celebration on Monday.

Eleven-year-old Tiana Shah took the stage Monday at Leander's second annual MLK Day March and Celebration to read her winning essay on the civil rights leader.

"I felt kinda nervous and excited and proud — all at the same time," the fifth-grader said afterward.

A young girl stands at the podium on a stage with a woman assisting her and others seated nearby.
Kailey Hunt
Fifth-grader Tiana Shah, one two Leander ISD elementary school students to win an essay contest, reads her piece about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Tiana, who was one of two Leander ISD elementary school students to win the essay contest, shared her favorite part of the essay with KUT.

"Equality means we affirm that we see others at par with ourselves or with our own. When you start thinking of others as our own, maybe treating them like our own will come naturally," she read. "Maybe Martin Luther King Jr.'s most popular words, 'I have a dream,' will echo back as 'lived a dream.'"

Monday's event, themed "Unity Through Diversity," featured performances from dancers, musicians, choirs and spoken word artists, as well as a marketplace with local venders.

Leander City Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem Na'Cole Thompson told KUT her heart was "happy" watching the community turn out.

Thompson spearheaded the effort last year to bring a MLK Day celebration to the city.

"I was like — There are plenty of things going on even in the political scene that divide us; let’s put together an event that is specifically designed for unity and to bring us together," she said. "And there’s no better message to get together under than Dr. Martin Luther King’s message."

Thompson said she estimated almost 2,000 people attended.

"The fact that the audience grew ... we have a more diverse line-up of entertainment this year — I’m excited to just see the expansion of the event," she said. "It’s a continuation, and not just a continuation — but getting better. And that’s the point. We should grow, we should get better. Things shouldn’t stay stagnant.”

Hundreds gathered at Leander's Old Town Park on Monday to celebrate the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Kailey Hunt
Hundreds gathered at Leander's Old Town Park on Monday to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Kasandra Diomande, who sponsors Leander High School's Black Heritage Club, said it was important for her students to participate in the MLK march.

"My students have been working really hard at volunteering around the city, and they want to let their presence [be] known to give a positive image to the Black Heritage Club," Diomande said. "We want to be a positive force in this city."

Thompson said she's glad the city now has space for residents to celebrate their diversity.

"There are people that never thought that Leander was diverse at all," she said. "People just needed an event to get behind where they felt welcomed and wanted to participate, and MLK was that first door to walk in for them."

Kailey Hunt is KUT's Williamson County reporter. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @KaileyEHunt.
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