Parade honoring MLK takes over downtown Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thousands lined downtown streets Monday for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parade. 

The parade stepped off at 10 a.m. at EverBank Field, with units riding, rolling and marching west on Bay Street, turning south and passing the Jacksonville Landing.

More than 100 entries included 10 marching bands, several JROTC units, dignitaries, dance teams, school groups, fraternities, sororities and community organizations.

While King would not live to see his dream of equality come true, the crowds at Monday's parade represented all races and ages, just as King would have wanted.

SLIDESHOW: Images of MLK Day parade

Andre Neal has been with the MLK Memorial Foundation since it began organizing the parade 36 years ago. It has grown from 25 people in the Durkeeville neighborhood to a major community event, followed by observations at the Landing and at Hemming Plaza.

It represents a vision of equality that Standralyn Terry hopes her granddaughter, Alexandria, will continue in the next generation.

"I want her to see all of the different kinds of people her and spur conversation and want her to learn more," Terry said. "The difference begins with you to pick up the mantle of change. When you see something that needs to be done, jump right into it."

Stetson Kennedy, an author, activist and folklorist who infiltrated the KKK and died in 2011, was named honorary grand marshal of this year's parade. His family participated in the parade in his honor.

In Tallahassee, over 400 people marched from the city's bus terminal to the Capitol, symbolic of a 1950s boycott over segregation of city buses. 

Florida A&M University interim President Dr. Larry Robinson noted that the march was not marred by the obstacles of civil rights era marches.

"We must consider ourselves extremely fortunate on this day in 2017. We did not have to face hostile mobs, vicious police dogs and even policeman themselves who did not welcome those who marched in decades past," Robinson said. "Instead we were actually escorted by law enforcement, many of them joining us."

Several marchers wore signs decrying the state’s clemency laws, which deny voting rights to convicted felons, even though they have paid their debt to society. The Florida Supreme Court will consider an amendment later this year for the 2018 ballot that would automatically restore voting rights in nonviolent cases.


About the Authors: