'Stepping like they mean it'

The Baltimore Sun

Despite numbing cold, thousands of cheering people lined Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Baltimore yesterday to enjoy the annual parade honoring the civil rights pioneer.

Marchers carried banners reading "MLK Opposed the Vietnam War ... Out of Iraq" and "Execute Justice - not People." Drums thundered as drill teams in tasseled cowboy boots and colorful uniforms kicked and swiveled in energetic choreography.

"This is excellent - everyone is stepping like they mean it," said Monica Baker, an administrative assistant from Charles Village. "This parade means that freedom lives, and there's more freedom yet to come. But we still have a long way to go."

As she watched from the median strip, the marching band from Frederick Douglass High School rumbled past, wearing orange-and-blue uniforms along with hats topped with white feathers.

Tavon Thompson, 29, a floor-installation worker from West Baltimore, brought his stepdaughter, Keyona Jacobs, 10, and stepson, Kaileed Jacobs, 5. "A lot of people came out to support freedom and justice today," said Thompson. "It's a good time to bring the kids out and have them see things they haven't seen before."

Thompson's 11-year-old cousin, Darrell Childs, said he was impressed by the spirit of the event. "Today is important because Martin Luther King's birthday is important, and everyone came out to thank him for everything he did before he got killed," Darrell said.

A local nonprofit that collects food for the homeless called "A Can Can Make a Difference" cruised by on a float with volunteers dressed as cans of soup, boxes of cereal and other food items.

Vendors peddling cotton candy and inflatable toys did a brisk business in the crowd.

"It's a great day, a great occasion and a great celebration," said Deborah Jones, a 47-year-old Northeast Baltimore resident and case manager for Big Brothers/Big Sisters. "We intend to carry on Martin Luther King's struggle for all people. We want the war to cease. We want jobs and health care for all."

A squadron of 20 Corvette sports cars gunned their engines as they rolled slowly past the spectators. A pickup truck driven by a volunteer from Providence Baptist Church went by. A wooden cross in its payload was adorned with the words "Transformation" at the top, "Proclamation" on the left and "Maturation" on the right.

Steve Brown, a 55-year-old airport transportation supervisor from Northwest Baltimore, said the celebration of King was important to continue every year. "His message is still relevant - there is still a lot of injustice in the world," Brown said.tom.pelton @baltsun.com

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