Photo by Curt Yeomans
Hundreds of people came out to watch the annual Clayton County Martin Luther King, Jr., Parade, on Monday. It was held in Jonesboro this for the first time since 2009.
The sites and sounds of Clayton County’s 12th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade were just a bit too attractive to Jonesboro youth, Makala Neaves.
Neaves, 3, spent much of the parade sitting on the shoulders of her grandfather, Michael, as she watched floats, marching bands, cheerleaders, horseback riders, fire trucks, police cars, and elected officials pass by her on North Main Street, in Jonesboro.
“I want to be in the parade,” she exclaimed. Her grandfather quickly responded: “Maybe you can be in it, in few years, when you’re older.”
Approximately 1,000 people lined the streets of Jonesboro Monday afternoon to watch the county’s King holiday parade. The parade, which is sponsored by the Elijah Masonic Lodge No. 309/Electra Special No. 109 Eastern Star organization, included roughly 100 entries.
Although the parade is more than a decade old, there was a bit of significance for this year because it was the first time since 2009, that it was held in Jonesboro.
The county seat was where the first nine Martin Luther King, Jr., parades had been held, but it moved to Riverdale in 2010 and 2011 as Jonesboro’s downtown area underwent renovations.
“There’s good things about Riverdale, but in Jonesboro, you have a better turnout and more participation,” said parade organizer, Herman Turner. He added that the difference between Riverdale and Jonesboro is that only Jonesboro would allow the parade to take place on the actual Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. Riverdale had a stipulation that it had to be held during the weekend, he explained.
Several residents said they welcomed the parade’s return to Jonesboro, saying it was sorely missed during the last two years. “I think it’s wonderful that it is back, because we missed it when it was in Riverdale,” said Regina Nelson, who watched the parade with her children and grandchildren. “It’s something we look forward to every year, and it’s a good opportunity to spend time with our families, and to teach them what Dr. King did, and what he stood for.”
Fellow Jonesboro resident, Lavoris Woods, said it “seems appropriate” for the parade to be held in Jonesboro, because “it is our county seat.” She also said it was good for the city, because it serves as an event that draws people into the city’s downtown area. “Jonesboro needs something like this to build up its downtown area,” she said.
Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day, who participated in the parade, said the city welcomed the parade’s return, because it is a family-oriented event that is popular with residents. She also explained that it was good opportunity to bring the community together. “We’re always glad to have community events in our city,” she said. “This is always a good event to have because it draws a lot of families, and that’s the kind of event that we want to have here in our city. I thought it was a pretty nice parade. It was certainly a big parade.”
Several elected and appointed officials from across the county joined Day in the parade, including county commissioners, state representatives, state senators, members of several city councils across the county, judges, elected prosecutors and public safety officials.
But, despite the significance of the parade’s return to Jonesboro, there was a bigger reason for the parade to be held, and that was to highlight King’s life, work and legacy. The theme of this year’s parade was “Assassinated But His Spirit Lives On,” according to Turner.
“His spirit lives on, but it is up to each of us to carry on his legacy by following the example he set for us,” the parade organizer said.
Some people road floats decorated with pictures of the slain civil rights leader, including one float that was in the shape of a large birthday cake. Others carried signs that mentioned ideals, such as justice and equality. Some waived signs encouraging people to exercise their right to vote.
“It’s a time for everyone to come together, and remember his beliefs and what he fought for,” said Miami, Fla., resident, Shatawn Walker, who attended the parade with relatives who live in Jonesboro.
Jonesboro resident, Lenora Lee-Younger, later explained that she thought the parade was “a beautiful thing,” and she saw it as a teaching moment for children. “You can use it to teach your kids and grandkids about what he did, and what his legacy has been,” she said.
Lavoris Woods, who was sitting with Lee-Younger at the parade, then added: “His legacy is peace and equality for all.”