With Richmond Hill’s first-ever Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parade set for January, organizers held a kickoff celebration Thursday at Flashback’s.
The event was hosted by Unity in the Community, Inc.
Among those speaking were Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter, Democratic congressional candidate Lisa Ring, Richmond Hill historian Donald Singleton and Unity in the Community, Inc., founders Craig and Sharon Butts.
Ring, a Richmond Hill resident, said it is important to recognize what the slain civil rights leader championed.
“It’s the principles that Martin Luther King stood for in his life,” she said. “What he fought for was the eradication of poverty, the end of war, equality and justice for all people. Those are universal principles that should be celebrated by everybody. And when we can come together on a smaller level in a community to recognize those principles, there is a feeling of unity and we’re all working for the betterment of our society and our community.”
Carpenter said King was an American icon. Richmond Hill city council voted in March to hold the parade, which is themed “I have a Dream.”
“We have in Dr. King a worthy subject to celebrate,” Carpenter said. “He is iconic, to say the least. When you think of social justice, who comes to mind? Equality for all, who comes to mind? Needed change and dialog among all Americans, who comes to mind? There were others that were and still are a part of the struggle but the first that we all think of in this issue is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
Craig Butts said the parade will bring people of different cultures together.
“There seems to be other cities that are looking for a template that actually can bring people together of different cultures,” he said. “The polarization that is going on in our country right now is causing at the city level problems of governing people, so they’re looking for a way to apply a template that draws people together.”
Music was provided by Jacob Evans and Clay Hodges.
Also at the kickoff event was Gabriella “Max” Molinari. The Richmond Hill High School junior created the artwork for T-shirts that announce the upcoming parade. Molinari said she drew the picture from the Lincoln Memorial point of view of where King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Singleton said King was a pivotal figure in his own life.
"I was in Vietnam fighting the enemy,” King said. “Two months after that, I was in Washington D.C. fighting for our sisters and brothers. So, Dr. King had a lot to do with my life and I'm here today just asking everybody, lets make this parade happen. Let's make it happen. If it takes money, let's donate the money. If it takes time, let's donate the time, and let’s make this happen."
More information about the “I Have a Dream-2019 Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Parade” can be found on the parade Facebook page, including information on how to purchase commemorative T-shirts.