Seven-year-old Finnley O'Shea sat in his father's lap on the curb of King Street, clutching a cardboard sign that read "I have a dream!!" as Charleston's annual parade celebrating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rolled past Monday morning.
"Love your sign, bud!" a young woman on the sidewalk called out to a smiling Finnley.
"I have a dream, too!" said a woman in the parade, which started at Burke High School and traveled through downtown Charleston.
Finnley and his dad, Shaun O'Shea, have a tradition of honoring the civil rights champion on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. They spent Monday morning listening to King's speeches. After the parade, they planned to watch YouTube videos about King, who would have turned 89 years old Monday.
"I spend time teaching him who Dr. King was and what he stood for," O'Shea said. "It’s very important for me to help educate the next generation so we don’t face the same travesties."
The lively parade, which was part of the 46th annual MLK Celebration sponsored by the YWCA of Greater Charleston, provides a chance to contemplate the strides society has made thanks to leaders such as King, said Kionnie Epps, a sophomore at the College of Charleston. She and four friends stood along King Street and cheered on parade participants as part of C of C's Bonner Leader Program, a civic leadership group.
"It gives us a space and a time to reflect on how very prominent people have paved the way for us to be able to stand here on the side of the street and celebrate, with me being black and she being white," Epps said of the parade while gesturing toward fellow sophomore Jackson Streiter, "and it not even being about the color of our skin."
Spectators young and old waved gloved hands as floats, dancers and marching bands passed. Among them was James Cook, who greeted parade participants along Calhoun Street by saying "Happy King Day."
"This is what the dream is about," he said. "It's just a melting pot."
Shaun O'Shea said his favorite part of Charleston's parade is seeing "the community coming together."
"Yeah, me too," Finnley agreed with a grin.