Thousands honor King’s legacy in St. Petersburg

01/17/12 Andrea Lypka
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Each year, millions of Americans honor civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for his vision of equality. About 100, 0000 people celebrated the 27th Annual National MLK Drum Major for Justice Parade in St. Petersburg, among them was Latesha Wimberly, who waited for the 20 marching school bands and the 120 floats near Tropicana Field

“Because he had a dream that one day all of us will share a community and that’s what happened,” she said.

Dressed in black pants and white shirt, Fairmount Park Elementary School third grader, Shamel Watson was adjusting his red tie in the staging area. Watson is 8- years- old and one of the 5,000 students who encourage others to do the right thing.

“Like opening doors for grownups, pulling out chairs for ladies and being polite and respectful for grownups,” he said.

Watson is ready to start marching in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King.

“Because he is the one who gave the speech and he is the one who made us special. Made us feel special,” he said.

Fairmont Elementary teacher and mentor, Steven Whitfield said the aim of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence program is to motivate minority students ages 9-19 to stay in school.

“I just wish these boys the best, they are some amazing kids and be on the lookout because they are not going to stop,” he said.

Fairmount Park Elementary School music specialist Cheryl Copeland is helping her students get ready for the march.

“This day is very important to me because it helped me to become the person who I am. It helped me to continue to nurture lives and be the strongest persons they can become,” she said.

Copeland encourages her students to attend the event.

“It is important for them so that they can learn about the history and understand, you know, about the bridges that helped them bring over to the point where they are today.”

For St. Petersburg resident Deborah Jones this day means hope.

“Because it is something that tries to bring all of us together again. So that we can be treated equal. And this is a change for everybody,” she said.

More events in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King are being held this week at the University of South Florida. On January 19, social rights activist and Columbia University professor, Dr. Lamont Hill will speak about king’s legacy at the Marshall Center at USF.


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