Annual Parade Celebrates the Turning Point of the Civil Rights Movement

Shown l-r on the parades front line  is the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) team: Walter Johnson, Sandra Thompson, Omarossa Manigault-Newman, Jessie Bush and Barney Roberts.

Despite chilly Florida temperatures, the 41st edition of the MLK Holiday Grand Parade was held on Monday, January 17, in downtown Jacksonville. Hosted by the Martin Luther King Foundation the event marked King’s historic legacy signifying the ongoing struggle for human rights and dignity for all Americans.

The parade lineup began with grand marshal and community activist Malachi Beyah waving to the crowd. Beyah was selected for his commitment and leadership to the African American community in Duval. “Beyah has helped me on numerous occasions in the community. His dedication, loyalty and support are what make him different. He cared about your rights and fights for Blacks,” said organizer Darlene Neal.

In an effort to celebrate the day for all, senior citizen housing complexes had the opportunity to schedule transportation to enjoy the parade to reminisce on the struggles of the past and the legacy for the future. Due to the pandemic, the planned afternoon activities inside the Ritz Theater were cancelled.

While everything went off without a hitch, this year’s parade was not without controversy.  A day after the parade a rift has emerged between local Republicans and parade organizers.

City Council President Sam Newby and City Council Vice President Terrance Freeman, both Republicans, thought they should be near the front of the parade since it’s the first time in Jacksonville history that two Black city councilmen held the top spots.

Denied the front spot, the two chose not to participate.

Freeman explained to NEWS4Jax what happened before the parade. “Councilman Newby and I planned on attending and walked over to the parade, and upon getting their we were informed that there was a change in protocol,” he shared with the news station.

While the local Republican party feel it’s a snub, Freeman and Newby said it was a miscommunications, as did parade organizers.

After reaching out to organizer Gary Thomas, he shared he was unaware of what happened but ensured it would not happen in the future.

This year’s 1.5-mile parade route started on Waters Street at Federal Reserve Building, proceeded to Laura and then Adams streets and concluded at the intersection of Lee and Bay Streets. The parade which began at 11 a.m., was far less participants and watchers than in past years. It featured floats, local marching bands, dance troupes and decorated vehicles representing business and organizations exhibiting a theme related to King’s message.

Martin Luther King III called for the public to not celebrate #MLKDAY. Instead, he asked everyone to join him in urging Congress to end Jim Crow filibuster that blocks the voters right legislation. Nonetheless, breakfast, parades and other celebrations  continued throughout the country.

“No celebration without legislation. On January 17, join me to honor my father and the #MLKLegacy as we call on Congress and the White House to eliminate the Jim Crow filibuster and pass voting rights to protect millions of Black and Brown voters.”

Back in November, supporters of the John Lewis Act exposed the Senate Republicans that blocked the bill. Only 60 votes were needed to advance the bill past the filibuster, However, that became impossible after the 50-49 vote.


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