Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell Parade attendees walk through snow showers down M.L. King Boulevard enroute to the Tivoli Theatre in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As a steady snow fell, hundreds of people marched down M.L. King Boulevard on Monday in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., just one day before America’s first black president is set to be sworn into office.
Several paradegoers said the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama today at noon made Monday’s M.L. King Day march even more significant.
“It’s the unification, the unifying of both black and white,” said the Rev. J. Loyd Edwards, who worked with Dr. King.
Between 400 and 500 people marched in the event, which started at 4 p.m. from Olivet Baptist Church on M.L. King Boulevard. The parade turned onto Broad Street and ended at the Tivoli Theatre, where civil rights attorney Morris Dees spoke Monday evening.
The inauguration of Barack Obama is a dream come true, Mr. Dees said.
“When Dr. King marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965, few if any African-Americans voted in the South. Today we have black elected officials all over the South, and finally we’ve gone to the point of accepting an African-American as president of the United States,” he said.
Mr. Dees is founder of the Southern Law Poverty Center in Montgomery, Ala., that has put 12 hate groups out of business.
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IS THIS YEAR’S M.L. KING MARCH MORE SIGNIFICANT?
“Oh, yes. There’s a connection (between President-elect Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr.). It’s special with the speech that Dr. Martin Luther King made. It’s the realization of that dream.” — The Rev. J. Loyd Edwards
“It’s a significant day for black, white, Hispanic, people of any color. It was the dream for Martin Luther King for all people to come together as one and not be divided.” — Galatin White Jr.
“It’s two special days in a row because of the progress we’ve made in race relations.” — Rhonda Jacks
“It fulfills his dream. It has all came together. Now all we have to do is keep his promise.” — Patrice Fairbanks
“This is an opportunity to put the past behind us and to move forward,” he said.
Dr. King, Rosa Parks and all of those people who voted with their feet by participating in the civil rights movement have helped to make President-elect Obama’s election possible, he said.
During the march, several people held signs saying, “We R1 family.” Others sang as they walked.
Marion Pound, a Chattanooga resident, held a sign saying, “Rosa sat so Martin could walk, Martin walked so Obama could run, Obama ran so our children could fly.”
“It’s all of Martin’s work coming to be,” she said.
Parade organizer Napoleon Williams said there was a good turnout even with the cold, snowy weather.
“It is special because of the new president-elect being sworn in, Obama,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of people I’ve never seen before. I’ve been doing this 15 years.”
Deborah Oakly, a Chattanooga resident, walked in the midst of the parade amid people of all colors.
“It’s a historical moment,” she said. “It’s a historical moment for me. That’s what’s going through my mind.”
Lynn Reeves and her friend Patrice Fairbanks said they walked from Alton Park just to march in the parade.
“I think it’s very special this time,” Ms. Reeves said. “Rain, sleet or snow, nothing is going to stop me from marching.”
Chattanooga resident Rhonda Jacks marched in the parade for the first time. Minutes before the start, she said she would think about history and how far the country has come as she marched.
“I’m going to be thinking about all the people who gave their lives to get us to this point,” Ms. Jacks said. “I’ll be looking to the children and thinking of the future.”