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Houston's 20th Annual MLK Day Parade in Mid-town attests to King's succes

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Dancers, classic cars, and Segway riders entertain the crowd on San Jacinto Street in Houston Jan 20 2014
Dancers, classic cars, and Segway riders entertain the crowd on San Jacinto Street in Houston Jan 20 2014
photos by Marc Pembroke
Dancers in Houston Martin Luther King Day Parade on San Jacinto St
Dancers in Houston Martin Luther King Day Parade on San Jacinto St
photo by Marc Pembroke

On Monday January 20, the 4th Grand Parade for Martin Luther King Day delighted thousands along both sides of San Jacinto Street from the Mid-town campus of HCC to Webster, with marching bands, dance troops, classic cars, Segways and horses, celebrating the remarkable achievements of the civil rights leader. The parade was sponsored by MLK Grande Parade.org. Simultaneously, downtown, a separate parade was organized by the Black Heritage Society. Throughout the weekend, and earlier that day, various events ceremonial breakfasts, a youth parade brought political, religious, and community leaders together in many venues and surrounding towns.

While there were no speeches, and few politicians in the San Jacinto parade, the event implicitly attested to the achievements that were for many only part of the dream Dr. King spoke of in 1963. We take it for granted that dozens of high schools in black communities can field a brigade of talented young musicians and dancers participating in ROTC programs with ample access to college.

A group of volunteer deputy voter registrars walked through the crowd asking everyone if they were registered to vote. The legacy of the Civil Rights Movement included the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which expanded access to the voting booth for people of color, and lead to the election of African Americans to local, state, and Congressional posts. While voter registration is always timely the fact that large numbers of African Americans are registered today, many motivated by the opportunity to vote for the first African American President a few years ago not to mention that thousands African Americans now hold public office at every level of government.

Today, police and fire departments are in constant positive interaction with diverse communities, and cheering residents greet fire trucks and cruisers on holidays, in stark contrast to the confrontations between demonstrators and police in the 1960's. “We don't eat donuts, we graduated. We eat Kolaches now” joked an officer as his cruiser cleared the parade path.

Several local radio stations, entertainers, and African American media outlets participated, as might be expected. But what might be a sign of the times was the effort of H&R Block to reach the community with a brigade of Segways at the start of the parade and a truck float at the end, attesting to the fact that many more African Americans are gainfully employed and in need of professional financial advice than ever before.