MLK parade to focus on mentoring

Pine Bluff’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade will make its way down Main Street on Monday just a bit later than usual to accommodate those planning to watch coverage of President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in Washington D.C. earlier in the day.

The parade starts from the Jefferson County Courthouse at 2 p.m. and heads down Main Street to City Hall, where a King program will be held on the north steps of the building.

Parade organizer Shirley Washington said that at least 30 churches have signed up to participate as well as other local groups.

“A lot of the churches will have elderly members in their church vans which will be a part of the parade,” Washington said. “Jonesetta Wilkins is the parade grand marshal. We also have all of the fraternities and sororities taking part. The Pine Bluff High School marching band and the ROTC color guard from Watson Chapel will be there.”

Washington said the theme of this year’s parade is ‘Mentor a Child; Save a Life.’

“The theme is centered around the fact that January is National Mentoring Month and we are trying to urge our churches and other organizations to get involved in mentoring in order to save our kids,” Washington said. “Susan L. Taylor launched the Cares Mentoring Initiative here in Pine Bluff earlier this month. They train mentors and send them out to other organizations and they also conduct background checks on all prospective mentors.”

Washington said an art contest with prizes furnished by the Delta sorority will be part of the festivities again this year, with participants encouraged to decorate their parade banners with images that evoke the parade theme.

“Rev. Turner and the ICVR King Team will host a program at the end of the parade at City Hall,” Washington said. “We are looking forward to good weather and looking forward to people joining us Monday afternoon.