Kids from the Gresham Park Recreation Center in DeKalb County, Georgia., have been marching in Atlanta’s Martin Luther King Day parade for 20 years.
On Monday they carried on the tradition, waving green and white pompoms as they strode down Peachtree Street in Martin Luther King Jr.’s hometown.
“We come out every year,” said Gina Clay, the center’s cheerleading coach. “It’s history for the kids.”
Other youth leaders at the MLK Day March and Rally echoed her words.
“We come out in support of the dream Martin Luther King had,” said Kristy Knighton, director of the Mountain Top Adventurer Club at Atlanta’s West End Seventh-Day Adventist Church. She said the club is a youth group similar to scouting.
“We want to teach our kids the struggle our forefathers went through,” she said. “They marched [in the civil rights movement] and today we are marching.”
Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts were well-represented in the gathering of civic groups, churches, political parties, unions and others. The march ends with speeches at The King Center on Auburn Avenue, not far from Ebenezer Baptist Church where King’s mother was shot and killed as she played the organ during a service.
“This parade is to celebrate Martin Luther King and what he did,” said Qiyamah, a 9-year-old scout in Troop 2029 at Kipp Strive Primary School. “Black people didn’t have the same rights as white people did.”
Parent Keena Frost stood with the scouts as they waited for the parade to start. Bringing kids to the event helps them see the unity we have by walking together, she said.
Groups from area private schools also took part.
Naomi, a sixth-grader at The Friends School, held one side of a wide purple banner bearing the school’s name.
“We really like equality at our school,” she said. “Martin Luther King stood for equality.”
Mia, a seventh-grader at The Friends School, said she comes to the parade because “people still don’t have the same rights.” Police are not treating people fairly [because of race], she said.
Members of the Lithonia High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps stood shivering in their short-sleeved uniforms on a street corner as they waited for the parade to start. Their jackets had been left in their bus.
Emon Edward, a junior at the high school in the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia, said the group had already marched in a smaller MLK Day parade earlier in the day.
“[But] this one is the biggest parade that we do,” he said.
Freshman Denise Mberi this one is most memorable: “It’s really something special to us.”
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