Unity and remembrance were the main points of celebration for the Miami-Dade community that came out to watch the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade on Monday. The event started in Model City and ended in Liberty City’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park.
The annual celebration is among the largest and longest-running Martin Luther King Jr. Day parades in the nation.
Local schools’ marching bands, businesses, politicians and more walked alongside one another or rode floats down NW 54th Street as hundreds watched from the sidewalks. Families sat in lawn chairs sharing food and children rushed up to catch candy being thrown from floats.
“I feel wonderful! God blessed me to come out here. It’s positive. No negativity, no violence and everybody be vibing together. So I feel wonderful,” said Shirlee Clayton, who was recently released from the hospital after surviving a brain aneurysm.
“It’s important for our children to know the truth about their heritage,” said Clayton about why she feels the parade is still significant today, decades after King’s death.
Francoise Alexandre, founder of a grassroots initiative called Konscious Kontractors, was there with the Circle of Brotherhood, an organization of primarily black men dedicated to solving issues in their neighborhoods.
“We rely on the legacy of MLK to find unification in our community,” Alexandre said.
Love of family shone through the celebration. Four-year-old Aaliyah Johnson danced with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue workers. Latavia Lurry, Aaliyah’s mother, said the department asked her if Aaliyah could join them in the parade after she posted a picture of her daughter in a firefighter costume; that’s what Aaliyah wants to be when she grows up.
Lurry said she felt at ease. Her daughter was accompanied by cousin Kiara Lurry and her aunt, Lieutenant Kellie William.
Older parade-goers said it was important for youth to be aware of the history of the African American community. Some younger attendees expressed that there is still work to be done in improving race relations in the United States.
“[Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.] would be 91 this year, and it’s important to keep showing up and keep remembering him because he had a dream and he had a plan,” said University of Arkansas graduate Lashae Knight. “And [his plan] hasn’t been fully executed, so that’s why he has people like me and other people you see here today carrying the torch and keeping the momentum going.”
Florida International University student Daniela Suzarte said there are still many race problems in the United States that are being ignored by the media. She added that there needs to be more of a national conversation. “I don’t think that we have equality in any sense of the word, but I feel like we’re trying to achieve something culturally by these types of events … and discussions that create a better America,” Suzarte said.
Angelo Baisden, who wore a shirt with a picture of a friend who was shot and killed during a verbal conflict, said there are a lot of people with hate in their hearts today. “We still need to learn to love and care for one another,” said Baisden. “Like Martin Luther King was trying to teach us. That’s why his day was so important and it should live on.”