Cool temperatures and intermittent rain didn’t keep residents and visitors of all ages from lining Hinesville’s Main Street for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Day parade on Monday.
“(Wet weather) didn’t keep (King) from doing his work,” said Hinesville resident Andrew Swann.
Swann, 62, grew up in Savannah during segregation and has seen how far that city and the country have come since King’s tumultuous days leading the civil rights movement.
“My kids don’t remember it but I try to make sure it stays on their minds,” he said. Swann said King’s legacy is also a topic of discussion with his grandchildren.
Mamie Brant, 70, also has a running conversation with her grandchildren about why it’s important to observe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
“Sometimes they tell me things they’ve learned in school, things I didn’t know,” Brant said. The former New Jersey resident said she went to “all the parades” held each year in her former home state, and has continued to attend MLK Jr. Day parades here in Hinesville.
Puerto Rican citizen Maria Fernandez came to the parade with relatives she is currently visiting in Hinesville, her goddaughter Lisa Sanchez and Sanchez’s aunt Lourdes Valentin. Valentin’s daughter, Ashley Torres Valentin, is a Liberty County High School student. Ashley Valentin marched in the parade with her sorority, the Delta Gems.
Organizations, churches and schools exhibited the theme for this year’s parade, “Back to the basics … saving a generation: education, service and integrity,” through colorful floats, banners, music and a large number of young participants.
The parade is organized by the Liberty County Martin Luther King Observance Association. The MLKOA hosted a number of events prior to Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, such as the annual leadership breakfast at Dorchester Academy on Saturday, and held a commemorative program at Bradwell Institute after the parade.
Booker T. Burley, 89, a local civil rights pioneer and Liberty County community activist, was this year’s grand marshal.
The 2011 Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade champion float was First African Baptist of Riceboro, Bethel AME Church came in second in the float competition, and Baconton Missionary Baptist Church came in third.
The association also presented 2011 Civic Awards to Jim and Pat Bacote for Geechee Kunda preservation of Gullah Culture and to Jones, Osteen and Jones Attorneys at Law, for outstanding philanthropic support in Liberty County.
Other recognitions included a posthumous Trail Blazer Award to the late Annie Givens. Givens is considered to have been the first black teacher to integrate the teaching staff at Old Bradwell Institute.
Nan Flowers, considered to be the first white teacher to integrate Old Liberty County High School, was also presented a Trail Blazer Award.