After last year’s hiatus, the annual parade to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Liberty City was back in the streets Monday, with elaborate floats and marching bands lining up the blocks along Northwest 54th Street.
While celebrations took place across the country in winter weather, attendees and groups participating in the 45th annual Miami parade, themed “Driving the Dream Forward,” were glad to see a clear blue sky to welcome back the celebration, which was presented virtually last year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Marching bands from Carol City Senior High in Miami Gardens and Miami Central Senior High joined cheerleaders and performers from Florida Memorial University and Florida International University.
“It’s an experience that I’ve never had,” said Mary Reeves, the president of a newly formed group 4 Our Children Community PTA, an advocacy organization that wants to address disparities in education for children in Miami-Dade County Commission Districts 1 and 2.
Loading up a blue pickup truck with green and white balloons, Reeves said this was her first appearance at Miami’s MLK parade, where she was hoping their group could get some exposure.
“We were blessed to get a spot Friday,” said Reeves, whose advocacy group formed in September.
Other established community organizations also had a presence at the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, like the Circle of Brotherhood, whose members have been helping to feed and give financial support to families hard hit by job losses through the pandemic.
“We know there’s a lot of problems going on so we have to have somebody that can stay focused,” said Sinclair Manley, a 56-year-old member of Circle of Brotherhood.
A fellow member, 66-year-old Dennis Phillips, said he was born and raised in Miami and has been coming to the parade for many years, the last seven as a Circle member.
“Even though it’s been a difficult two years, the Circle of Brotherhood men have been out there ... trying to encourage our community to do better, to move forward to something better and to embrace it,” said Phillips.
Phillips said he felt the work of their organization was an important presence at the parade because, aside from addressing gun violence, it was important to show the role Black men can play in solving their community’s problems. In his case, as a formerly convicted felon, he joined the fight for Amendment 4 to restore voting rights for felons.
“I didn’t have any court fines or anything like that, but I went out and joined Florida voter restoration and we got it on the ballot,” said Phillips. “So it’s enriching the people’s lives of South Florida, of Miami. When everyone is enriched, everyone is doing better.”
Opa-locka state rep. is Grand Marshal
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade and Festivities Committee, which hosts the county’s longest-running parade every year, named Opa-locka Democratic state Rep. James Bush III as this year’s Grand Marshal. County officials, like Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and Commissioners René Garcia and Keon Hardemon, joined law enforcement agencies on their vehicles along the parade’s path to Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, 6000 NW 32nd Ct.
Jazmyn Johnson, 21, is a senior at Florida Memorial University, the historically Black university in Miami Gardens, majoring in psychology. At the parade on Monday, she was wearing a sash that read “Miss Florida Memorial University,” a title she said she was proud to carry. While she said it’s been a tough year coping with changes during the pandemic, she said she has adapted well and simply wanted to enjoy Monday’s parade.
“Coming from an HBCU [Historically Black Colleges and Universities], we’re built off of Black history, Black excellence and today we’re celebrating us,” said Johnson, who is Bahamian. “We’re celebrating what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted.”