Waving signs proclaiming “We Are The Dream,” “Keep The Dream Alive” and “Black And White Together,” a group of several hundred gathered on the north side of the Pine Bluff Civic Center on Monday afternoon for a program that closed out the annual Kingfest celebration in Pine Bluff.
The program followed the annual parade, which featured students from Pine Bluff and Watson Chapel, church vans and buses, and elected officials including Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth.
Speaking during the program, Hollingsworth said she was there to “honor the legacy of a man who stood for righteousness, for love, and for justice.”
Hollingsworth said King followed “God’s calling and his voice and his dream echoes even today.
“I hope all of you young people learn to carry that dream forever,” Hollingsworth said. “As a city, we pledge to do so.”
Wanda V. Neal, the new president of the Pine Bluff Chapter of the NAACP, announced the winners of the parade decoration contest, which included “Mentor A Child, Save A Life,” sponsored by the Mayor’s Office, third place; Old St. James Youth Ministry, second place; and First Trinity Church, first place.
The Grand Marshal for this year’s parade was Josetta Wilkins, the mother of state Rep. Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV of Pine Bluff and mother-in-law of former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater. She is also the widow of the late Henry Wilkins III, who served in the Arkansas House of Representatives for a number of years and was a professor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
A speaker at the program said Josetta Wilkins was ill and while she did ride in a vehicle during the parade, she left immediately afterward and did not attend the program, which also included a performance of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech by Maleek Ware.
The Rev. Jesse Turner, coordinator of the Interested Citizens for Voter Registration (ICVR), which sponsors the annual Kingfest celebration, said he “has a lot of good people helping me keep the legacy of Dr. King alive.”