A first, MLK Day parade marches on MLK Blvd.

01/22/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Martin Luther King Jr. Day was celebrated yesterday across the country and in the Tampa Bay area; major parades were held in both St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Because of construction in West Tampa, the parade was held for the first time in East Tampa along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Community activist Michelle B. Patty said the day was important for all Americans.

Lily May Lovett grew up in Florida and said MLK was a crucial figure in giving Black Americans the civil rights that painfully had eluded them for so long.

Tampa citizen Michael Jones also gave tribute to the slain civil rights leader, who was assassinated in Memphis on April 4th, 1968. Jones said there should be less identification of one’s ethnicity or race in this country.

This year’s march comes as the mainstream media focuses on blacks' political influence with the ascendance of Barack Obama in the race for the president.

As he and Hillary Clinton battle it out for the nomination, the rivalry seems to be heating up.

Controversy arose over remarks Clinton made about the contributions by MLK and former President Lyndon Johnson to the civil rights movement offended many blacks, as did Bill Clinton’s comments that Obama’s stance on the Iraq war was a "fairy-tale."

Obama supporter Jerome Brown said the fact that race has become an issue was inevitable.

Patty said she wasn’t happy with the Clintons' challenges to Obama. But several participants WMNF spoke with at the debate said they were solidly behind Hilary Clinton, and acknowledged a lack of information about the upstart U.S. senator from Illinois.

Janice Albright said she was ambivalent on who to support.

This year's MLK Day march comes just a few months before the 5th year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Martin Luther King Jr. became a prominent critic of the Vietnam War.

Spoken word artist LIFE said if he were alive, King would be a loud voice of opposition against the U.S. involvement in Iraq.

Danny Green was marching with the Old School Car Club of Tampa, and served in the military for 22 years. He also believes King would be against the Iraq invasion.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio says the city plans for next year’s parade also to take place on MLK Jr. Boulevard in East Tampa.

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