MIAMI – Hundreds lined the streets in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood Monday for the return of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade.
The annual event honoring the late civil rights leader had to be celebrated virtually last year because of COVID-19, but it was back in person for 2022, giving residents a chance to see the floats and bands that the parade is known for.
“It’s a big thing. Growing up in Liberty City, Florida, we did this a lot. And now, for it be up and running again, this is a great experience,” said Akin Liverpool, a sophomore at Florida Memorial University.
The theme of this year’s parade was “Driving the Dream Forward,” inspired by King’s vision for all people to come together and walk hand-in-hand toward economic growth and civility.
“That dream is following Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech of really building not only economic and community development but also unity for the community,” said event organizer Candyce Haynes.
Starting at 11 a.m., the parade headed down Northwest 54th Street, leaving from 10th Avenue and traveling all the way to 32nd Avenue. The route has meaning behind it, as it goes through areas King would visit during his frequent trips to Miami.
“From last year to now, it is truly truly a blessing to be back on the streets,” said organizer Voncarol Kinchens. “Still want everybody to be safe, to mask up … but with this year, with a lot of things that have happened over the past couple years or whatever, it was very important to make sure this parade takes place.”
Many other cities canceled their parades this year because of concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant.
Pompano Beach still held its parade, which began at 9 a.m. at Blanche Ely High School and ended at Mitchell Moore Park, where a celebration continued with music, food trucks and family activities.
Other MLK parades in Broward County were canceled, including those in Fort Lauderdale and Deerfield Beach.
Congresswoman-elect Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick said it was important to carry on with the parade in Pompano Beach.
“I’m happy we were still able to have this parade here, which is historic for us, and to see everyone and let them know that we’re here for them,” she said. “COVID has been a big concern for everyone, but within COVID it’s important that we still energize the people and let them know that we see everyone and we’re still fighting for them.”
Cherfilus-McCormick was elected last week to fill the seat of late Democratic Florida U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings. She is the Black daughter of Haitian immigrants.
Among those attending the Liberty City parade was Dr. Mae Christian, a civil rights activist who earned a congressional gold medal for her work as a foot soldier in the 1965 voting rights marches.
“We were determined that we were going to have our voting rights and our civil rights, which is the same issue that’s going on right now,” she said. “We marched, and we marched diligently. We marched with emotions, we marched with feeling, because we kept seeing the rights of people being violated. So we still ... it’s not over yet.”