Celebrating King Day
Willie Cook of Summerville smiled as he twisted in time to the marching bands, but his celebratory mood turned serious as he talked about why he came to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.
"Because of those two boys," he said, pointing at his 8-year-old son, Trey, and 6-year-old son, Carter, who stood as close to the passing floats as possible. "I want them to know the meaning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I want them to be able to bring their kids here. This is something I wanted to pass down to them."
Hundreds of Lowcountry residents lined Charleston's downtown streets Monday morning to commemorate the holiday dedicated to the civil rights leader. They shouted "Happy King's Day" to one another and savored the more than hour-long parade organized by the YWCA of Greater Charleston. The procession started near Burke High and rolled its way down King Street, ending at Calhoun Street.
The festive atmosphere was palpable, and the significance of the day wasn't lost on many of the predominantly black residents who turned out. Priscilla Sarpy of James Island has full-and part-time jobs. Although the federal courthouse where she works was closed, she took the day off from her part-time job in a hair salon so she and her granddaughter could go to the parade, she said.
She wanted her granddaughter, eighth-grader Travey Mason, to better understand King's importance in U.S. history, she said.
"(He) gave us a better life," she said.
Clips of King's famous "I have a dream" speech blared from speakers, and one group sang "We Shall Overcome" as they walked. From Girl Scout troops to churches, classic car owners to local dignitaries, parade participants brought the crowd to laughter and applause again and again.
Annice Brown of Goose Creek has vivid memories of when she learned King had been shot: Brown was a sophomore at Burke High. She comes to the parade every year, and she enthusiastically waved at everyone who passed.
"His struggle wasn't in vain," she said. "So many things about his dreams did come true."
Briggitt Bailey of Edisto Island came with about nine other family members, including her sister and grandchildren. It was a particularly special day for Bailey -- her 51st birthday. The date on which the King holiday falls changes each year, but she said she always looks forward to it being on her birthday.
"This is what I wanted to do," she said as she looked at her family. "I'm celebrating with everyone."
After the parade, the YWCA hosted a Youth Speak Out in which middle and high school parade participants were invited to the group's downtown site, fed lunch and asked to talk about issues such as how the state's new voter ID law, which requires voters to bring a photo ID to the polls, compares to voting issues during the civil rights movement. More than 60 local youth showed up for the small group discussions.
"It's a nice way for everyone to come together and learn from each other," said Carla Culpepper Leverette, who helped organize the Speak Out.
Professional Breakfast: The MLK Business & Professional Breakfast will be held at 7:30 a.m. in the Exhibition Hall at Gaillard Auditorium. Keynote speaker: Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson. Tickets $30. 722-1644.
College of Charleston: Civil rights activist Bob Zellner will present "The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement" at 7 p.m. in the Stern Center Ballroom. Zellner will tell the story of his journey from son and grandson of Klansmen to field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
College of Charleston: A free public screening of the award-winning documentary "Prom Night in Mississippi," which chronicles students' experience leading up to a school's first integrated prom in 1998, will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the Physician's Auditorium on the College of Charleston campus. The film's director, Paul Saltzman, will host a discussion afterward.
Call to Action: A Gospel Concert Raising Awareness and Action starts at 5 p.m. at Royal Baptist Church, 4761 Luella Ave., North Charleston.
Reach Diette Courrégé at 937-5546.