martin_luther_king_jr_web.jpgMIAMI — The Bullard family in South Miami-Dade, which has a state senator and a state representative and a former representative in its ranks, will be the grand marshalls of the 35th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade on Monday.

The event is regarded as the nation’s largest and oldest street celebration of the life and legacy of the civil rights hero who gave his life for his country.

Sen. Larcenia Bullard, who has represented the 39th District since 2003 after serving in the House from 1993 to 2000, will retire at the end of her current term.

Bullard’s husband, Edward B. Bullard, is a former state representative and their son, Dwight Bullard, has represented the area in the House since 2008. 

Big Mama — Essie Reed — will also serve as a grand marshall. The once homeless woman, who turned her life around, has spent 13 years pulling teenagers —  about 500 neighborhood kids — off streets and away from drugs, violence and prostitution.

Reed founded Big Mama's Team of Life nonprofit organization in Fort Lauderdale, whose mission is to help others in need with a passion for excellence in education, social advancement, and community involvement through values based encouragement and programs.

King Parade organizers, led by Preston Marshall, who founded the event, estimate that between 300,000 and 500,000 people attend the two and a half hour celebration which stretches along a street named for King.

More than 150 groups, including marching bands, dance and drill teams, elected officials, professional floats, equestrian units, classic cars, motorcycle units, faith-based, community and political leaders, civic and community organizations, labor unions,  police and fire units, military and veteran groups participate.

The Humana All Tingz Caribbean contingent will headline a salute to King from the Caribbean community that will also include a Bahamian junkanoo band, the Mocka Jumbie Stilt Walkers from the U.S. Virgin Islands winners of the Miami/Broward One Carnival costume contests and calypso dancers.

The Miami-Dade Transit historic bus will also be in attendance.

A corporate grandstand viewing area will be set up directly across from the PBS/WLRN media station which annually records the parade and shows it on its public television channel.

The parade will take place along Northwest 54th Street, from Nortwhest 10th to 32nd Avenue in Miami’s Liberty City community, starting at 11 a.m. The MLK Family Festival will follow, from noon to 6 p.m. at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, 3200 NW 62nd St., in cooperation with the Miami-Dade Park and Recreation Department. 

The parade and festival theme is “Unity And Family Values… We’re All In This Journey Together.”

The celebration will include the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Day Run and Fitness Walk, now in its 29th year. It will start at 8 a. m. at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Metrorail Station at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard (Northwest 62nd Street) and Northwest 27th Avenue and is being presented by the Progressive Officers Club of Miami-Dade County.

The Children’s Trust will co-sponsor with Miami-Dade Park and Recreation the Let’s Move Children’s Village for kids 5-14.  The “village” will incorporate First Lady Michelle Obama’s program to raise a healthier generation of children and Miami-Dade Parks program Fit-to-Play: Health, Wellness and Obesity Prevention Out-of-School program, with games, sports and physical activities.

The celebration, says Marshall, “emphasizes the need for unity with an understanding that we are all interdependent, that we must work together for the common good to improve key areas to ensure success in our schools, our neighborhoods and our economy for family sustainability that includes our newly returning military families.”

“On this day we celebrate our children and hopes for their future.

Our children must be taught by example to have a strong moral character and a sense of right and wrong. They must learn to get a good education, behave honestly, work hard, be kind to others, and stand up for those who can't speak for themselves,” he said.  “Dr. King is the world’s role model who left a legacy for all children and families; this is why we celebrate his day.”

Photo: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.