Jacksonville honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

38th annual MLK Holiday parade, other events honor King's legacy, life

By Jennifer Ready - Reporter, Crystal Chen - Assignment editor/reporter, Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Despite the cold weather and a short detour, the city of Jacksonville continued its 38-year tradition of honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with an annual parade.

Bands, decorative floats and community organizations made their way through downtown Monday morning as people lined the streets for the MLK Day parade in honor of the most prominent American civil rights leader.

The parade is organized every year by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation with the intent to grab the attention of children to encourage them to learn more about MLK.

This year's parade took a slight detour because of work that needed to be completed after Sunday's implosion of the old City Hall Annex.

PHOTOS: City honors life, legacy of MLK with parade

Instead of turning on Newnan, the parade continued along Bay Street to Ocean Street, then turned to Independent Drive near The Jacksonville Landing. 

Political figures in the parade included Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

“It is awfully cold today, but it’s fun -- you get to see everybody. I was telling everybody, 'I represent you,'” Scott said. “Thank God for Martin Luther King. What an unbelievable individual that believed in trying to make change and in a very positive manner.”

Some spectators said more work is needed when it comes to honoring King’s legacy in our communities. King would have turned 90 this year if he had not been gunned down by an assassin over his message of peaceful resistance in the face of hatred and inequality.

"I’m out here today to show my effort to express the drastic need for unity in our country,” Jackie Montgomery said. "Each individual can step up and do their part, and then collectively, we will outnumber those that don’t want to do that -- that don’t want the unity.”

Darlene James was among those who braved the cold, bundled up in heavy coats and blankets, to watch the bright floats, bands and community organizations perform in the parade.

“We are just getting together, watching these young people entertain us, having a good time. All the time we are thinking about what our people went through back then to where we are today -- that’s our benefit,” James explained. "Our people need to know how to come together. We need to know how to love each other. Then we need to start living up to the legacy as far as loving all fellow man, education and living the American dream.”

Cummer celebrates MLK Day

The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens on Riverside Avenue was open for free on Monday in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.

Adam Levine, director and CEO of the Cummer, said the museum is normally not open on Mondays, but the event was funded by the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida, Jax Chamber, JEA and the United Way of Northeast Florida

"On a day when many people are off, and many people are reflecting on the importance of Martin Luther King Jr., it was important for us to provide a space for people to think about that legacy of peace and unity and do so surrounded by beautiful works of art from across time and across space," Levine said. "Art is what unifies us, and there's no more apposite way to celebrate Martin Luther King's legacy than to be here in the art museum."

Levine said the Cummer was thrilled with the turnout. Part of the event included an art-making activity for kids to make works that reflect on peace. Those will be stitched together and publicly displayed, Levine said.

Annual MLK march in Tallahassee

More than 200 people gathered at the historic Greyhound Bus Station where civil rights protesters advocated for equality in the 1950s and then marched on the state Capitol Monday morning in honor of King.

Leaders of the march said the passage of Amendment 4 in November was a major stride for Florida toward realizing King’s dream.

WATCH: State Capitol march recognizes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Florida’s previous policy disenfranchised more than 1 million people, disproportionately affecting minorities. With the amendment’s passage, organizers said, Florida moved toward racial justice.

“That all incorporated in Dr. King's dream for us to live together in solid brotherhood and to that rock of brotherhood that stands,” said Tallahassee NAACP Chapter President Adner Marcelin. "Treating each other with the necessary respect and forgiveness.”

Florida A&M University President Dr. Larry Robinson reminded the crowd that a single victory isn’t an excuse to stop fighting.

"Our work must go into overdrive now, and we will not be able to take any days off,” said Robinson.

While last year, felons' right to vote was on the minds of marchers, this year, the ongoing government shutdown loomed as a reminder of the deep divisions still present in today’s society.

Pastor Judy Mandrell said the country's leaders should take to heart King's words and come to a resolution.

“Hatred can't drive out hatred, but love can. Love is what can help us get in a better place,” said Mandrell.

Other issues organizers say still need to be addressed in both Florida and the nation include better access to health care, education and economic opportunity for minorities.

A memorial for King sits in the courtyard at the State Capitol. It was dedicated in 1984.

More events to celebrate MLK's legacy

For the first time, a celebration from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday was held at The Ritz Theatre and Museum. Guests enjoyed the museum, entertainment and various vendors.  

In St. Augustine, the Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Committee of St. Johns County hosted a breakfast from 7:30 – 10 a.m. at the Mark W. Lance Armory. It was followed by a silent Remembrance March that started at 11:45 a.m. from St. Paul’s AME Church.

Every year, the United Way of Northeast Florida and other organizations honor Martin Luther King Jr. with a week of service. This year, it began on Saturday and ends Jan. 26.

All government offices and schools were closed Monday.

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