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Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade heats up Baltimore on a cold day

Snow crystals from a brief shower landed on the fur coat worn by Doris Williams, who came downtown for an event she would never miss, the city’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade.

As the mercury hit 26 degrees, she arrived early at the intersection of Saratoga Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to honor the civil rights leader and peace advocate and recalled her own own personal disappointment at not being allowed to go to Washington, D.C., in 1963 for King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“I saw him live, on television that day, but I really wanted to be there,” said Williams, a Social Security Administration worker. “Some of my classmates went to Washington for the speech, but my mother said no. I was the youngest of her babies and she didn’t think it would be safe for me.”

By spending more than an hour in the cold as the parade marched by, she said, she was honoring King’s memory.

The 18th annual Martin Luther King Day parade in Baltimore featured more than 70 groups, including high school and community bands, dance squads, fraternities and sororities, honor and color guards, equestrian units and civic organizations, including Baltimore Ceasefire 365.

The parade almost didn’t happen this year. Mayor Catherine Pugh, who marched Monday, had proposed replacing the parade with an annual day of service and a battle of the marching bands, but she decided to go ahead with parade after a community outcry.

Keeping the parade was music to Williams’ ears, figuratively and literally. She waved to the Dunbar High School marching band members and recalled her own student days in East Baltimore.

“I started there in the seventh grade,” she said.

Crowds gathered along the parade route down Martin Luther King Boulevard for the noontime event.

Ameira Jones, a Carver Vocational-Technical High School culinary arts student, came at the last minute for the bands and the dancing units.

“I heard the music coming and got here quick,” she said. “It’s real cold.”

Malisha Edwards, a Navy petty officer first class from Glen Burnie, brought her daughter, Nylah Edwards, to the parade.

“It’s very, very important to have her out here today,” she said of the mother-daughter moment.

“Earlier today we were listening to his speech,” she said and quoted a line from King: “We are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

“His life was powerful,” Edwards said. “You see the impact it had by the numbers of people who assemble here today in his name. He taught us that love should prevail.”

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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