Despite financial woes and the likelihood that it may not happen, the historic Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade and Festivities kicked off as planned in Liberty City on MLK Day, Monday. Themed “One Dream, One Community,” the eight-mile parade commemorating the slain civil rights leader’s legacy, is in its 34th year.
The Miami-Dade County Commission voted last year not to fund any festivities not officially sponsored by the county. The Liberty City MLK parade, which is a private celebration, was taken off the budget, leaving the Dr. MLK Jr. Parade and Festivities Committee scrambling to find alternative funding at the last minute.
Preston Marshall, the parade’s founder and a civil rights activist, did not say where the funding came from, merely saying, “It all worked out well. And people turning out in such large numbers in spite of the weather proves that this event is meaningful to all the community, especially the youth.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary since the civil rights leaders’ birth anniversary was first commemorated as a federal holiday. King would have been 82.
The parade, the largest and oldest MLK celebration in the U.S., moved west along Northwest 54th Street in Miami’s Liberty City community, from Northwest 10th to 32nd avenues.
Participants in the almost three-hour event included law enforcement, fire rescue, the city of Miami, marching bands from Florida International University, the University of Miami, Miramar, Miami Carol City, Miami Central, Miami Northwestern and Miami Edison high schools, along with some businesses.
The parade ended with an afternoon of festivities at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, 6000 NW 32nd Ct.
Willis Davey of Brownsville, who took his 8-year-old twin granddaughters Nyissa and Nerissa Chambers to the parade, remembered King and his visits to Miami in the early Sixties.
“I recollect standing outside of [Greater] Bethel [AME Church] to get a glimpse. I just wanted to see the man that so many respected, that did so many things and for everybody. There was a group of us boys there to see him,” Davey said.
Davey said he was about 13 then and had just moved from southern Alabama with his grandparents.
“All Pappy did was talk about how Dr. King’s movement would change my life, said that he was too old to fight but if I learned what Dr. King was preaching, and stood up for myself as a man, I would be all right. And I am.”
Now 65, Davey said that he has attended the parade every year since its inception.
“I do it for Pappy,” he said. “I stand right here on 54th Street today for him and I stand for these two so they can live in a world and be respected for who they are and what they can grow up to be.”
Nyissa and Nerissa, wearing MLK t-shirts, said that they never saw a parade “so big.” The sisters, visiting Davey from South Carolina, talked about what they learned about King in school.
“He was a hero to a lot of people,” said Nyissa. “And my other granddaddy got to vote because of him.”
Nerissa added, “He wanted peace for everyone, black and white. If we have that, the world will be happy.”
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net.
PHOTO: Preston Marshall