Honoring a legacy: Deatra Newell keeps MLK celebration going strong

Deatra Newell learned her first lessons about how to treat people from being around her parents’ grocery store.

It didn’t matter who the person was, what they looked like or how much money they did or didn’t have, she said. Each was a person and worthy of respect.

“We have always been taught to be kind and to be giving,” Newell said. “If you’re fortunate enough to have, you should be giving as well.”

“He was a leader in this community,” she said of her father Chester Garrard. “It was important to him for his kids to step up when he was gone … to help our community be a better place. It was important for him to be a better community for all involved.”

Garrard and his wife Anna got their children active in politics and, in 1983, the annual Martin Luther King Jr. community breakfast. Newell has helped continue the mission of the breakfast for the decades since, which includes a breakfast, speakers and a march to the Clark County Courthouse.

The first breakfast in 1983 attracted about 300 people, she said. This year’s event saw about 250 attend, she said.

“The actual (first) one I helped with, it was the greatest experience to provide something where everyone can come together,” she said. “That’s one day we’ll all be able to come together, regardless of our race and accept people.”

Through the years, the event has moved from 7 a.m. at Winchester City Hall to the current time of 10 a.m. at the gym of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

“Every year I say I’ll do something different, but as long as I can,” she said.

Newell said she’d like to see a few more people prepared to keep the event and its mission alive before stepping away totally.

“If we can come together one time a year, when we as a people come together and we love each other,” she said. “We embrace each other. We say kind things about each other.”