preston-marshall_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

Liberty City’s historic Martin Luther King Jr. annual parade may not happen this year, just as it nearly didn’t take place in 2010.

Miami-Dade County commissioners, at a meeting in December, voted 9-4 against funding the event’s cost, leaving the Dr. MLK Jr. Parade and Festivities Committee little time to look for alternative funding.

In past years, the parade was written into the county’s budget, according to parade organizer Preston Marshall. “But with the current budget problems, as a line item, we were taken out last year,” Marshall said in an interview.

As the economy went into recession, the commission voted not to fund any festivities that are not officially sponsored by the county and the Liberty City parade was one of them, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson explained.

“The price tag on the county for this event is upwards of $500,000 and the MLK parade is not under the county’s auspices,” she said.

Edmonson and fellow black County Commissioners Barbara J. Jordan, Jean Monestime and Dennis C. Moss were the only ones to vote in support of the county funding.

Now in its 34th year, the parade is held annually on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday, the third Monday in January. It takes place along Northwest 54th Street between 10th and 32nd avenues. This year, it is scheduled to start from the Winn-Dixie parking lot at 1100 NW 54th St. at 10:30 a.m. Monday.

Last year, the committee faced the same financial obstacles and the county provided funding. But, before the parade, Edmonson said, “there was a promise, a commitment from Dr. Marshall, as well as the parade committee, that they would immediately, after last year’s parade, begin to raise funds for this year.”

“They needed to take an active role in doing so. That has not happened. So here we are another year later and in the same predicament,” Edmonson said.

According to Edmonson, Moss, a former commission chairman, also tried to have a resolution approved to allocate about $60,000 for the parade, but the move was defeated.

The reason behind the defeat, Edmonson said, was that the commission discontinued giving funds to such celebrations, including the Hispanic-oriented Calle Ocho and the Three Kings Parade.

“What the commission is looking for is an effort on the MLK committee’s part in Liberty City to play a stronger role in raising capital for the parade,” Edmonson said.

Marshall offered no comment, when asked, regarding his efforts to raise funds for this year’s parade and festival. He said the committee was seeking to “reach out to try and get some funding or people who will sponsor the parade.”

“It takes a budget of about $300,000, if not more, to have this type of event. The monies go into police services, the park and sanitation,” he said.

While Marshall would not say whether the committee has raised any money so far for this year’s parade, Edmonson said none has been raised.

Grant monies received by the committee are earmarked for smaller expenses, including paying parade workers and purchasing floats, food and insurance, Marshall said. But much of the support comes in the form of in-kind services.

Edmonson said that she has already spoken with county departments that have committed to absorbing a great deal of the parade’s costs.

“Cleanup of the streets, the showmobile and bleachers, advertising on our county buses and trains, security from the police department and fire rescue — all that is costly, yet they have agreed,” Edmonson said.

The cost of such in-kind services, Edmonson said, totals at least $500,000.  “But that’s not enough to kick it off,” she added.

Miami City Commissioner Richard P. Dunn II said that his fellow commissioners agreed to help the committee at the level they did last year.
The city provided in-kind services worth roughly $30,000, Marshall said.

“I would feel horrible if it does not happen. Having been a tradition for more than 30 years, it would be a loss for the community,” Dunn said.

Edmonson agrees that the parade is a one-day activity that should be observed but reiterated that “the county can no longer afford it.”

Liberty City resident Brighton Andrews, 64, said that he would be disappointed if the parade does not happen.

“I brought my children and now I bring my grandchildren. And if it does not happen this year, is that a sign that it’s not coming back?” Andrews said.

If the problem is that the county cannot afford it, Andrews said, “then I agree that there should be a year-round attempt to keep it going.”

“But I have not seen or heard anything about raising money. It would be sad if the community would lose something we weren’t at least given the opportunity to help save.”

Marshall said he was trying to avert another “catastrophe,” referring to the fact that the parade was nearly canceled last year because of lack of funds and last-minute preparation had to take place to make it possible.

“I still need money to make it happen and am trying to be positive. I don’t want to say that it will be canceled,” Marshall said.

Cynthia Roby may be reached at

Photo: Preston Marshall