On Dream Street: Residents celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. with parade, luncheon

Published 12:17 am Tuesday, January 22, 2019


NATCHEZ — Sirens wailed behind the cadence of a bass drum beat accentuated by a rhythmic snare drum as approximately 80 entries paraded through downtown Natchez on Monday in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The parade, organized by the Natchez-Adams County Branch of the NAACP, included participants from local high schools, churches, youth groups and other organizations.

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“We’re here to celebrate Martin Luther King’s dream,” said Shawn Atkins, member of Wayside Lighthouse Love and Holiness church, which had several members riding in a trailer bearing an image of King. “The dream was that one day all men will walk and talk, eat and go to school together.”

Atkins said he believes the nation has come a long way toward reaching King’s dream, but he is afraid the nation has taken a few steps back recently with immigration issues and recent racial incidents in the news.

Atkins said he believes said he believes celebrating King Day can help keep King’s message in the forefront.

“The parade and King Day can help remind people of his sacrifice,” Atkins said. “He showed what true leadership is about.”

Paul Bacon, president of the local NAACP, said he chose this year’s parade theme “Brotherhood and Love for All Humanity” after news reports the past year about immigration struggles on the southern border with Mexico.

“Dr. King was a forerunner for justice,” Bacon said, “not just for the African-American community but for all people in America, regardless of the color or creed of their life or religious background.”

Indeed, participants in, and spectators of, Monday’s parade included whites and blacks as the temperature hovered in the mid 50s under blue skies painted with wispy white clouds.

Monday’s parade started a little later than usual this year, organizers said, to allow participants in the morning’s Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture’s “I Have a Dream Youth Luncheon,” time to participate in the parade.

At the luncheon, main speaker, Kaylin Saniya Lewis, 13, of Robert Lewis Magnet School, challenged today’s youths to follow King’s message of non-violence and discussed problems in today’s society including violence and civility.

Monday afternoon’s cool temperatures did not stop a group of ministers’ wives from the AMB Association of Natchez from huddling into the back of a trailer with blankets to ride in the parade.

Participation was worth bearing a little cold weather, said Virginia Washington, to keep King’s message alive.

“What he fought for was freedom and love for everyone,” Washington said.