A sunny day with temperatures nearing 70 degrees served as the backdrop Monday for the 2014 Martin Luther King Jr. Day marade in downtown Pine Bluff.
The marade, organized by Interested Citizens for Voter Registration, was the culmination of a weeklong KingFest celebration commemorating the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader.
Starting at the Jefferson County Courthouse, the caravan consisting of lively marching bands, decorated floats, walkers with banners, horse-mounted riders, motorcycle clubs, vehicles representing businesses, politicians and other s reached its destination at the Pine Bluff Civic Center.
The Watson Chapel ROTC led the procession, immediately followed by Grand Marshal, Mr. Marshall Kelly, director of Brown Funeral Home.
Other groups including Pen or Pencil, the Pine Bluff Police Department, Americorps, Broadmoor Elementary School drill team, the NAACP, Pine Bluff Transit, the Jefferson County Democratic Women, Natural Born Riders, and Students with Opportunities To Soar entertained the crowd of a few hundred spectators.
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority members sang “We Shall Overcome” and Anderson’s Taekwondo Black Belt Academy chanted, “peace not hate, love is great” emphasizing King’s message of non-violence.
The Rev. James Wallace, said he was watching the marade for the first time.
“But, I plan not to miss it again,” he said.
Next year, Wallace hopes to see a representation of different nationalities in the community.
“Dr. King stood for unity,” Wallace said. “Everyone has to get involved if we are going to see things change.”
Reflecting on the issue of violence, Wallace said the problem will be resolved by “hearts turned to Christ.”
IVCR board member and marade coordinator Shirley Washington said she was pleased with the parade and the week of events as a whole. Washington said she saw more excitement this year than in the past.
“We got calls from so many who wanted to be a part,” Washington said. “We saw an increase in activities and in participation.”