MLK Parade: ‘We have come a long way — all of us’

Published 12:10 am Sunday, January 14, 2018

SALISBURY — The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade through downtown Salisbury is always a celebration, always a reminder.

It celebrates the life of King and what he meant to the civil rights movement in America.

It reminds us that things have improved but still could be better.

And so it was Saturday morning as both parade participants and the crowd coming to see them braved a cold, blustery, sun-splashed day.

Bundled up against the wind, Connie Woodberry said attending the parade and celebrating the MLK weekend as a whole is important. “It just keeps me in remembrance,” she said.

Young people don’t know the kinds of sacrifices that were made in the past for civil rights gains, Woodberry said.

“We take a lot of it for granted,” she added. “We have come a long way — all of us.”

Obar Oliver was holding a homemade sign with many pictures of King. He lives in Lexington and also plans to attend Lexington’s King parade Monday. Oliver stressed that the King holiday is not an African-American holiday.

“This is a people holiday,” he said, adding it stands for equality for all. “This is a good holiday, a  meaningful holiday. It stands for a lot. … Martin Luther King led to a lot of changes for everyone.”

Saturday’s Main Street parade, organized by the Salisbury Human Relations Council, lasted about a half hour. As it progressed, there were tunes from a DJ set up at the Square.

There was music from the popular Livingstone College Blue Thunder Band and the House of Prayer jazz band, whose members played from the back of a pickup and the trailer it was pulling.

There was dancing by individuals and groups. Numerous sororities and fraternities, public officials, churches, queens, the J.C. Price American Legion Post and auxiliary, dance teams, law enforcement and fire vehicles, and sports cars (13) from the Vette Set Club participated.

Al Heggins, recently elected as Salisbury’s first African-American woman mayor, walked near the front and received an enthusiastic response from the crowd.

East Spencer officials were well represented by Mayor Barbara Mallett and members of the Board of Aldermen. Beniah Miller, a candidate for the 13th U.S. House District seat, also had an entry.

Members of Salisbury-Rowan Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) made a noncontroversial appearance in MLK Parade on Saturday, and its message was simply stated: “Equality for all,” along with the words “Someone you know and love is gay.”

Back in November, PFLAG drew some attention when its members were not allowed to ride on the Avita Pharmacy float during the Holiday Caravan.

Marching closely Saturday with the PFLAG group was a strong contingent from Salisbury Indivisible.

Elsewhere, the parade crowd enjoyed seeing some of the youngsters who made up the Salisbury 49ers, a team that recently captured a 6-and-under national football championship.

Other parade participants included a JROTC team, the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP, the Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Park, Salisbury Parks and Recreation, Kiddie Land Kindergarten, the Salisbury-Rowan Chapter of the Winston-Salem-State University Alumni Association, the Dunbar School Alumni Association, Essie Mae Kiser Foxx Charter School, North Rowan Elementary School and a few local businesses.

The Salisbury-Rowan Schools entry was a yellow school bus whose monstrous banner read, “Bus Drivers Needed.”

Karen Puckett watched the parade after attending a morning meeting of the Rowan County Democratic Party. She was hoping to see some of her students who attend Isenberg Elementary School.

“This was nice; it was fun,” Puckett said. She especially enjoyed the bands and wished the parade had been longer.

After the parade, for a couple of hours at the Salisbury Civic Center, the city offered two food trucks, more DJ-inspired music and numerous information tables.

The tables had representatives from the Hefner VA Medical Center, Senior Benefits Center, WSSU Alumni Association, MLK Dream Park, the charter school, the NAACP, Parks and Recreation, and Salisbury Human Relations Council.

There also was a place to register to vote.

Though it was just a good coincidence, Saturday’s MLK Parade led into the afternoon’s “Hogan’s Alley New Year Rally,” which was organized by Lost & Found and Salisbury Art Station.

For food, the rally offered the Mambo on Ruedas food truck, Sweet Meadow Cafe and Mean Mug Coffee. Several artists set up places in the alley, which runs between the 100 blocks of North Main and North Lee streets.

The Happy Roots organization also was on hand, and musicians played at both Lost & Found and Salisbury Art Station.

Iain Rocco, owner of Lost & Found, said the quickly organized event, publicized mostly by word of mouth and social media, was just another effort to bring people downtown and made more aware of Hogan’s Alley.

“There’s really not a lot to do in January,” he said. “I like to have stuff going on.”

He’s already planning another Hogan’s Alley event for April.

The 41st annual Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Awards program will be held at 3 p.m. today at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast will be held from 7 to 8:30 a.m. Monday at J.F. Hurley Family YMCA, 828 Jake Alexander Blvd.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.