Monday, January 16, 2006
Culturally and Racially Mixed Crowd Marches To Honor Civil Rights Leader
By Leann Holt
Journal Staff Writer
The racially and culturally mixed crowd of people who marched in Sunday's Martin Luther King parade would have made the late civil rights leader proud, some participants said.
"In Mississippi, the marches are 95 percent black," said Joey Foote, who moved to Albuquerque from Mississippi with his family last year. "I think this is more like what Martin Luther King had in mind."
Organizers said the 20th annual parade was the largest in recent memory, with more than 1,000 people marching in the blustery wind down Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to Civic Plaza.
'For Our Children'
[+] Click to enlarge photoAdolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal Members of the ABQ High School Junior ROTC lead the Martin Luther King parade to Civic Plaza on Sunday. The 20th annual parade was the largest organizers could remember, with more than 1,000 people marching.
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Marcher Mark Griffith said it was fitting for so many racial groups to be represented.
"(King's) work was to free all people not only the oppressed, but their oppressors because they were trapped as well," Griffith said. "It freed all races."
After the marchers, bands, vintage cars, firetrucks and politicians reached the plaza, the program began, featuring a black children's choir and a pint-size mariachi band.
Passing King's principles on to the next generation is one of the main reasons for the annual march, said parade organizer JoElla Redmon, executive director of the New Mexico State Martin Luther King Commission.
"We are doing it for our children and our children's children," Redmon said. "We have to make sure our kids realize the struggle and know they can accomplish things through nonviolence."
Keoni Baty seemed to get the message. The 10-year-old marched with a sign that read: "We Are The Dream."
"If you don't teach the kids of today, the future is going to be very, very dark," Baty said. "Adults that care about us say they want us to be the most positive, educated and not do war."
Chris Martin, 13, said King inspired him to "shatter the image that says black people aren't good enough." His fellow marchers high schoolers who belong to the National Society of Black Engineers agreed.
"I want to be a good role model so they can look at us differently, not just see when something goes wrong," said society member Cameron Weaver, 14.
"That's why we dress for success and don't cuss," he said "or act a fool in class," chimed in Nicole Baty, 16.
Before the parade began, a group from the Tri-Centennial Truth Alliance held a last-minute news conference that seemed to cause some tension for parade organizers, who said they wanted the afternoon to be a celebration.
The Truth Alliance, whose members say it wants to end the "glamorization of Native American oppression by Albuquerque's Tri-Centennial initiative," included Gwen Packard and Andres Valdez. They spoke to a small crowd about human-rights violations they see happening in Albuquerque.
"This is Albuquerque apartheid," Packard said. "Instead of a holiday parade, we want to bring attention to the homelessness, hunger and poverty in Albuquerque. It's a call for everyone to get involved in these issues."
Harold Bailey, executive director for the state Office of African American Affairs, said it was important that the day didn't turn into a protest.
"You can do the right thing the wrong way," he said. "This is more a celebration and recognizing of the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King."
Keoni Baty said he thought the day was "all positive all good vibes."
"I felt this was a great opportunity to show that we care about what Martin Luther King did to make this world a better place," he said, his young face intense. "It's an opportunity to see people be enthusiastic."