As Carolyn Saleem watched Charlottes annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade flow along Tryon Street on Saturday morning she remembered helping organize the first parade held in the city to honor the legendary civil rights leader.
Snow was on the ground that day in 1988 when 65 people took part in an event held in west Charlotte because organizers couldnt get a permit for uptown, she said
On Saturday, Saleem held a homemade sign that read Keep the Dream Alive. On the back was a page from The Charlotte Observer with photos of the first parade, including an image showing the same sign.
Saleem hasnt missed an MLK parade in Charlotte and was among several thousand people who braved Saturdays cold to line up along Tryon Street.
Im holding the sign to let people know to keep Dr. Kings dream alive, said Saleem, 65, of Salisbury. And Im trying to teach my grandchildren and great-grandchildren not to take anything for granted.
Despite temperatures in the 30s and a steady breeze, the bundled-up parade-goers cheered with enthusiasm for marching bands, community organizations and step-and-drill units.
They also applauded when they heard excerpts from Kings I Have a Dream speech: I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, King said from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.
Saturdays annual parade came two days before the observance of the federal holiday for his leadership in the civil rights movement and progression toward racial equality in the United States.
Parade grand marshals were Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon and Darrell Bubba Wallace Jr., who last year became the first African-American to win in a NASCAR national series race since 1963. Amanda McCoy, the 2013 Miss Black USA, also appeared.
Retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg special education teacher Delphian Marsh called the day kind of special.
It reminds us of the work of Martin Luther King, said Marsh, 76, a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Were trying to give these young people as much history as we possibly can. I think its our duty to let students know about Dr. Kings legacy.
Many parade-goers brought folding chairs, while others stood by the curb or on sidewalks. Sipping hot beverages, they waved to people they knew in the parade and snapped pictures with cameras and cellphones.
Latanya Moody, 46, of Charlotte expressed her delight at being there by skipping down the sidewalk. For her, the event was an affirmation to never give up my dream.
Describing herself as a former drug user, she plans to enter college and become a counselor so I can help people who are abused physically, mentally and spiritually.
We can overcome our past, she said. Martin Luther King showed me there was a better way. I no longer have to hide. Now Im free.
Carlos Barnette, 28, of Rock Hill came to the parade to honor a historic figure whod touched his life.
Dr. King helped me finish my education and go get my associate and bachelors degrees, said Barnette, a financial analyst. Im the only one in my immediate family to have a bachelors degree. Martin Luther King gave me a dream to want more in life as a young African American male.
For his wife, Stefanie Barnette, 27, the parade was a way to come together, black and white people trying to ... build on something positive.
Ralph Buchanan brought his 11-year-old granddaughter, Samina, to the parade so she could appreciate someone as great as Martin Luther King.
I want her to understand his importance for us and to be about the things Martin Luther King was about, he said. Im planting the seed.
Nine-year-old Matthew Rubin of Charlotte called King one of my heroes.
Coming to the parade with his dad, the third-grader wore a Panthers cap, carried a football and waved at Sir Purr when he passed by on a scooter. But Matthew knew what the parade was all about: celebrating King.
He changed civil rights, Matthew said. And he gave the I have a dream speech.
Carol Glover found a seat to enjoy the parade with her granddaughter and several nieces and nephews. Even by noon the day hadnt warmed much, but they gave no thought to going home early.
The MLK parade was important because it brings back history, said Glover, 60, of Charlotte.
She felt the experience would help the young people to see the change our legendary leader started and is still continuing on today.
On a cold winter day they could learn important lessons and build on them as they grow older, Glover said.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less