Honoring King with music, chants and signs
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat who represents the 1st Congressional District in Congress, was the grand marshal for the annual Martin Luther King Parade Saturday – a parade that also included Libertarians, Republicans, local civic and cultural groups, Wool E. Bull, and, of course, school marching bands.
The parade also marked the beginning of Black History Month, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the re-election of Barack Obama as president. Saturday’s parade was the 11th one for organizer Phyllis Coley, publisher of Spectacular Magazine. In Saturday’s sometimes icy breeze, Coley helped the bands and organizations line up in order at the corner of Cornwallis Road and Fayetteville Street. The parade then went north on Fayetteville, and ended at the corner of Lawson and Fayetteville Streets at North Carolina Central University.
Some groups carried messages of political and social importance. The Libertarian Party carried signs stating “Live Free” and “End the War on Drugs.” A group representing the Republican Party also carried a banner. Members of El Centro Hispano rode on a float, holding signs stating, “We cannot walk alone” and “Justice for all.”
In a more direct reference to King, Hillside High School’s Drama Department marched with a banner publicizing a new upcoming production titled “Martin Said So.”
Parade participants and spectators bundled up to brace the cold. For Brittany Johnson, the effort was well worth it. She was with her cousins, goddaughter and aunts to watch her cousin Ayauna Sumpter, homecoming queen for Hillside High School, ride the school’s float.
Beverly Falls and her friend Elizabeth Apple of Charlotte also were glad to be at the parade. “It’s been terrific seeing all the kids” participating, Falls said. Apple and Falls have been friends since elementary school. Apple said she came for the weekend to visit her friend, and the parade just happened to be scheduled the same weekend. “We’d like to see more bands,” Apple said. She praised band and music programs in schools, which help with academics and other skills. “You learn some of the best lessons in the band room,” Apple said.
Pecolia Scott of Durham said the organizers need to do more pre-parade publicity, particularly to churches, to draw more attendance. At the same time, Scott said she enjoyed Saturday’s parade and said she will come back next year.
Other schools and organizations who marched were the Research Triangle Charter Academy, R.N. Harris Magnet School, the Morehouse College Alumni Association and the NCCU Tau Sigma National Honor Society. The group Fruit that Remains Christian Warriors for Christ marched and did a call-and-response chant. One member of the group would sing the chant, and the other Warriors would repeat it in step. “Have you heard the good news? / Jesus Christ is coming soon,” stated one chant.
Members of the Durham, Raleigh and Rocky Mount chapter of the Ruff Ryders Motorcycle Organization also rode in the parade.
No true Durham parade is complete without the Hillside Marching Band, whose drum line, flag squad and brass sections put the final touches on the parade. Wool E. Bull also was riding a vehicle in the parade, and, unsolicited, jumped out of the van, took out a magic marker and autographed a reporter’s notebook.