Parade, art museum activities, honor King's legacy

Shelia Burkhalter and her 8-year-old daughter, Sydney, spent Monday afternoon cutting out maps, drawing and writing in matching books titled, "My personal journey."

The Burkhalters were participating in a day of activities at the Walters Art Museum to commemorate the life and message of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

"It's not a day off, but a day on," said Shelia Burkhalter, an associate vice president for student affairs at University of Baltimore, explaining that her family usually volunteers on Martin Luther King Day. Her husband's work schedule did not permit it this year.

As they drove from their Glen Burnie home to the museum, Burkhalter talked with her daughter about King's dream of racial harmony and justice and the many strides that their fellow African-Americans have made since King's day.

"Things used to be different," said Sydney Burkhalter, a third-grade student. "Black people used to have to sit in the back of the bus. Now, when we go on field trips, I can sit anywhere on the bus. I can go to school with different people."

Elsewhere in the Walters, families watched videos of King's "I Have a Dream" speech, made medallions and postcards, and hunted for artwork that reflected the life of Bea Gaddy, the late advocate for the city's poor.

Six-year-old K.C. Jackson stacked paper cones and tubes to make a monument with the help of his mother, Nakisha Wilmore, 37. He said he learned about King in school and from his family.

"He had a dream about kids playing together, black and white," he said.

A few blocks away, thousands lined Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard for the city's 14th annual parade in the civil rights leader's honor.

Marching bands, such as the Baltimore City Entertainers, brought cheers from the crowd as dancers clad in white, turquoise and purple sashayed through the street.

Many church groups and alumni of historically black fraternities and sororities marched, including the sisters of Delta Sigma Theta, who wore sweaters and hats in their sorority's signature red.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake participated in the parade, as did groups on motorcycles and horseback, and members of social groups such as the Prince Hall Masons who marched in maroon fezzes.

Other marchers represented social movements supported by King, including activists for income equality and universal health care. Members of the anti-war group Women in Black marched with tall papier-mache puppets that carried peace signs.

Neh Labala, 31, a social worker from Pikesville, said he wanted to attend the parade to honor King's memory. While society has made steps to achieve King's dream of people being judged by the content of their character and not skin color, we still have far to go, he said.

"We've made a great deal of progress in legislation and we've made some progress in changing the hearts of people," he said.

Kennis Rolle Jr., 35, reflected on King's legacy as he watched the parade.

"His main message was peace," said Rolle, a Baltimore County music teacher. "He wanted everyone to get along, everyone to have access to education and equal opportunities for jobs and health care."

The eastern Baltimore County resident said he attended the parade to celebrate African-American culture and the mixing of cultures made possible by civil rights pioneers such as King.

And, he added, "I love a parade."

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