Video courtesy of Dylan May/Connect.


The streets of St. Petersburg were alive with fun, family, and celebration today at the annual MLK “Dream Big” Parade. People of all ages threw candy into the crowd and passed out bead necklaces. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, South Carolina State University and other marching bands put on their best show and jammed out in the streets. Floats decked out to the max wowed the crowd. People lined up the four miles to watch and cheer as the parade went by. The sky was clear and blue. The sun was shining and the air was cool. It was a beautiful day to have a parade and to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK day is celebrated on the third Monday of January so it falls close to his birthday, which is January 15. The holiday wasn’t federally recognized 15 years after his 1968 assassination and not officially celebrated until 1986. Congressman John Conyers Jr. of Michigan was the first person to introduce a bill to make MLK’s birthday a holiday. It failed to pass so the Southern Christian Leadership Conference introduced a new bill. It spent eight years in Congress, never gaining support until Former President Jimmy Carter came out in support of the bill in 1979.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife, Coretta Scott King, was instrumental in getting the holiday recognized. She testified before Congress, organized a nationwide lobby in support of the legislation, and presented petitions to the government. In 1980, Stevie Wonder released the song “Happy Birthday,” and it became the rallying cry of the movement. With Wonder’s help, she was able to get a petition with 6 million signatures to Congress, and the bill finally passed in the house 338 to 90.

There was a time, not so long ago, when celebrating blackness was seen as unacceptable. It is because of people like Dr. King, who stood up and demanded equality and justice, that people today could proudly wear their shirts and hold their signs that celebrate the color of their skin.

All photos courtesy of Emily Bowers/Connect.

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