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MLK Day parade draws diverse crowd downtown
Parents use event as history lesson
W 011518 MLK PARADE 01
In this file photo, Ashton Stater, 6, center, and Mekhi Palmer, 8, right, march with the Original First African Baptist Church during the 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade in downtown Statesboro.

A moderate crowd braved the chilly wind Monday, with spectators bundled in coats and hats, ready to enjoy the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration parade.

With bright sunshine tempering the nippy breeze, the day was perfect for a parade. People lined the streets, standing or sitting in lawn chairs, children playing as they waited for the Statesboro police motorcycles with flashing lights that heralded the beginning of the parade.

The 2018 theme was "Steadfast and Immovable," said Pearl Brown, president of the Bulloch County Chapter of the NAACP, which hosts the parade and other celebratory events in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

Floats, including one with a huge paper-mache boulder, reflected the theme as the parade rolled through downtown Statesboro to MLK Drive.

Local dignitaries including Bulloch County commissioners, Statesboro city councilmen and Sen. Jack Hill waved at the crowd as their sleek cars passed, and Jonathan McCollar, Statesboro's first black mayor, left his car and walked for a bit, shaking hands and greeting people.

Dance groups, church committees, local high school JROTC groups and bands also helped make up the parade, with several people handing out candy to children and fliers announcing upcoming events to adults.

Classic cars and new, sporty vehicles, including a bevy of sleek Corvettes, sparkled as they rolled down the street. Many floats and vehicles were adorned with the image of King, and some groups sang gospel songs as they passed.

Dale and Carmen Hosey were there to celebrate the day as well as Carmen's birthday, she said. Dale Hosey expressed admiration for King.

"He did a lot for people," he said. "I wish he were still here, to tell the truth."

King, a Baptist minister and civil rights activist from Atlanta, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and after he was assassinated by James Earl Ray in 1968, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and Medal of Freedom. He is known for his efforts toward peace and unity. In observance of his birthday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was declared a federal holiday in 1986.

Marsha Warren was at the parade with her children not only to enjoy the festivities but also to teach the younger generation about King's legacy and what he wanted to accomplish.

"I want to make sure I teach my kids some foundation points about their heritage and who they are," she said. "It is important for them to understand ... some people don't have these privileges. I have a responsibility to the people who worked so hard to get where we are today."

The crowd was diverse, with people of all ages, races and backgrounds standing side by side to watch, or march in, the parade.

Elliott Boney said he attends the parade every year unless he is working. He was off the clock Monday, parked on a side street and settled comfortably in a lawn chair as he awaited the parade's beginning.

"I have a lot of respect for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," he said. "I think he did a great deal for America, black and white."

One of King's dreams was that all races get along and work together toward unity and progress. Boney pointed out what he feels is a reflection of King's dreams.

"I see more white people here (at the MLK Day parade) than I've ever seen," he said, adding that while in the past, the crowd has been predominantly black, King represented unity of all races.

The parade was followed by a community gathering, with speakers and community leaders, at Elm Street Church of God.

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.



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