By Joel Hall
After a delay in confirmation with Jonesboro city officials, the Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Parade in Jonesboro will take place as scheduled on Monday, from noon to 2 p.m.
The parade -- a tradition in its eighth year -- will include 62 separate entries from local churches, businesses, schools, local public safety offices, and elected officials. This year's participants include the Clayton County NAACP, the Clayton County Police, Fire, and Sheriff's departments, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, the Jonesboro City Mayor and Council, Congressman David Scott (D-Ga.), District Attorney Jewel Scott, and Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon.
Since its inception, the parade has been jointly sponsored by the Elijah Summit Lodge 309 of the Smooth Ashlar Mason and the Electra Special Chapter 109 of Order of the Eastern Star in Jonesboro. Herman Turner, a member of Elijah Summit and the parade's coordinator, said the parade has created a formal King Day celebration in the county where the county government and municipalities have yet to do so.
There was a need "to give the people of Jonesboro and the surrounding county an out, because there was no celebration concerning what Dr. King had done for all of us," said Turner. "The parade was there to accommodate that void for the people."
The line-up for the parade will begin at 10:30 a.m., at Rum Creek Park on Government Circle in Jonesboro. At noon, the parade will head south on North McDonough Street, cross over the railroad tracks at Johnson Street near the Confederate Cemetery, head south on North Main Street, cross back over the train tracks a West Mill Street near the Tara Museum, and finally end at the Historic Clayton County Courthouse. The parade will disperse at 2 p.m.
The parade will include several floats, including a large, moving birthday cake crafted by New Macedonia Baptist Church in Riverdale, signifying the 40th anniversary of King's death.
Past floats have included re-creations of the a 1950s-era Montgomery, Ala., courthouse, a bus from the era when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, and an actor giving the "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
This year marks the first time newly elected Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox will participate in the parade in an official capacity. He said the parade represents "the coming together of all the people" of Clayton County.
"I think it's important that we honor Dr. King," said Maddox. "He brought forth a great social change without all of the violence that could have accompanied it."
Clayton County Commissioner Sonna Singleton remembers marching at Tennessee State University in Nashville for King's birthday to be made into a national holiday. To participate in the parade for a second time is "an honor," she said.
"Being an African-American female, I owe everything to Dr. King," said Singleton. "I think everyday we need to stop and recognize the rights and privileges that we have, because ... these privileges weren't always here."
Congressman Scott described King as "the architect of the most defining moment in American history for equality and justice." He acknowledged that, he along with other black politicians, like Maynard Jackson, were inspired to run for office in the wake of King's assassination.
"This country was defined very starkly at that time by the courage and determination of King," said Scott. "He uplifted the souls of people. You just wanted to stand up and go, and achieve, when you heard him speak."
Scott believes that can be done through more events like the parade.
Parade coordinator Turner said racism, in the form of higher arrest rates and longer prison sentences for minorities, are among today's biggest problems.
While there is still much work to do in creating equality for all Americans, Turner said the parade is a chance for some of them to come together in unity.
"Justice is not equal across the board," he said. "I think there is a mind of togetherness, but I don't think we have completely gotten there."