Special to South Florida Times
RIVIERA BEACH — Thousands of people lined up for blocks, some with babies and young children, to honor a man who gave his life for justice for all.
They turned out for the City of Riviera Beach’s 28th Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, which included a parade down Blue Heron Boulevard, Saturday, Jan. 14.
Bands kept the crowd hopping with dance and popular music, as firefighters sounded horns in a mini-parade of engines, and police officers circled with sirens and lights flashing, enthralling the attendees estimated at 5,000 attendees.
Vendors walked up and down the street with cotton candy and toys to entice the children and perhaps some adults.
But the message of the day rang out loudly and clearly in songs, posters and artwork on the sides of vehicles: King had a dream of equality for all citizens that should be kept alive.
The celebration came in advance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday observed on Monday, Jan. 16.
State Sen. Chris Smith said King and many others fought diligently, opening doors for minorities to become elected officials.
“Today is the day that we honor all of those [who fought for our freedoms]. Without them, as a young, black male, I wouldn’t be able to run for office,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t be able to serve in office and serve in Tallahassee and get things done.”
Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters agreed with Smith, saying for blacks voting was not an option at one time.
“If it had not been for Dr. King, we wouldn’t have the right to vote or be elected officials,” he said. “It is always important to remember people like Dr. King and others who paved the way for African Americans and other minorities to enjoy the full benefits of citizenship.”
Masters said King lived, and eventually was killed, to make equality for housing, employment and every aspect of the concept of justice for all a reality.
MLK parade coordinator Doretha Perry said she remembered having to use bathrooms intended for blacks only in the sixties.
“I’ve seen the transition from where there were ‘colored’ bathrooms,” she said. “Dr. King was a man who believed in justice for all. We have to make sure his dream is continued in this city.”
Masters said the parade was a nice tribute to King but it was important to remember that the civil rights leader was more about the “Freedom Walk.”
King would have wanted more such activities to promote jobs and empower citizens in the economic area.
Army JROTC student Vynteria Davis, 16, a student at William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, came out for the parade because King had made it possible for her to pursue her career goals.
King should always be acknowledged in a big way, like the parade, because his dream lives on through today’s generation, she said.
“I believe it’s important because everyone has to start somewhere and knowing that he brought us this far is a very big accomplishment,” Vynteria said.
“In 10 years I see myself with my own business being my own boss. Dr. King definitely opened doors for us to be leaders and business people.”
Photo: ALAN LUBY/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES
REJOICING: Parade participants rejoice during celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Riviera Beach on Monday.