MLK parade marches into town

Published 2:26 am Monday, January 17, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
For over 20 years the Escambia National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and groups like the Concerned Citizens of Atmore have kept the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. alive with a parade.
"We've been doing the parade for about 20 years, but we changed the format of it in the last two years to get more people involved," said secretary of the Escambia County NAACP Patricia Reynolds.
Patricia Reynolds, secretary of the Escambia County .
The dream of the parade committee is to unify all people in the way that Dr. King taught, Reynolds said.
The NAACP coordinated the parade until last year when the civic group Concerned Citizens of Atmore joined in to help.
"For a while we didn't have much help and we have been trying to get more members of the community interested; black and white," Reynolds said. "We want everybody to participate if they can."
"The misconception is that some people think this is just for black people, or about black people, but this is about unity," parade committee information officer, Sandra Gray said.
Past events have had little support from certain aspects of the community. "We are all working together to get more participation because this is about King and his purpose for everyone to get an education and get together as one," Reynolds said.
The parade will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Houston Avery Park on MLK Avenue and will end with a special program.
The program will feature Jerry Johnson, a former Atmore resident and a staff member of the White House Fellows serving in the Immediate Office of the Secretary of Defense. His speech will begin around 11:30 a.m. at Liberty Missionary Baptist.
The White House Fellows Class, according to the White House official web site, "is America's most prestigious program for leadership and public service. White House Fellowships offer exceptional young men and women first-hand experience working at the highest levels of the federal government."
According to the site secretary Colin Powell, General Wesley K Clark and Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao are previous Fellowship alumni began his political career in the White House Fellowship.
Johnson has worked on several defense initiatives as well as aspects of foreign policy, Gray said.
Johnson was raised in Atmore and much of his family still live in Atmore.
"Jerry's mother was a school teacher in this county and I've known his brother and his uncle my whole life," Reynolds said.
Reynolds and Gray hope that Johnson's appearance will draw the biggest crowd in the parade's history.
"Last year we had more participants than at any other time and we are hoping to get more this year," said Reynolds.
This parade is in memory to the sacrifices King made. "We just want to honor his dream for us," Reynolds concluded.

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