MARIETTA — A day on, not a day off, was the theme underscoring the 27th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday.
What would have been the 84th birthday of the Atlanta-born clergyman and civil rights leader, assassinated in 1968 at age 39, was celebrated by large crowds at the Cobb Civic Center, on a parade route along Roswell and Fairground streets and in the Marietta Square.
Parade participant Frank Robinson of Marietta, representing the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, said the years have not diminished the words of the drum major for peace.
“The message is that the dream is still alive,” Robinson said about King’s renowned quote about equality from the “I Have a Dream” speech.
Other marchers and riders in the parade, sponsored by the Cobb County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, cofounded by King, echoed similar thoughts.
“Dr. King’s legacy will stay alive as long as we come out and show that we never forgot him,” said Duane Bates of Ellenwood, a minicar driver with Shriners’ Nabbar Temple 128 of Atlanta.
A fleet of four red minicars chased each other around an empty intersection, followed by the Shriners’ clown unit.
Children like Carmen Hutchins’ 8-year-old son Eden gave the Shriners’ display a thumbs-up, which would have gratified Chief Jesteress Patricia Miller of Shriners Nabbar Court No. 123 of Atlanta, Daughters of Isis.
“We are spreading a message of love to the children and teaching them to love each other,” Miller, an east Cobb resident, said before the parade.
Other groups also incorporated King Day philosophies into their unique messages, delivered to about 400 spectators along the parade route.
Angela Bowers Irvin of Marietta said her sorority, the Rho Zeta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, wanted to counteract the effects of the fiscal cliff.
“We’re passing out candy mints wrapped in plastic $100 bills to remind people to be financially savvy on King Day, not to lose sight of their financial goals and to have economic freedom moving forward,” said the Clark Atlanta University alumna.
The Knight Strikers motorcycle club revved its engines in a display of solidarity with fellow club Hard Heads.
“That’s what a motorcycle club does — charitable work,” said Rusty “Shadow” Works of Marietta. “Everything we do is geared toward charity.”
The parade, led by a color guard, included parade Grand Marshal and preteen beauty queen Jana Foxworth, 10, of Powder Springs; the Marietta Fire Department and City Councilman Philip Goldstein; the SCLC Youth Unit; Greater Zion Hill Baptist Church; and Marietta Mentoring for Leadership, which promoted its Mentor 5K to be held at the Square on March 23.
The Square was where the parade wrapped up and the closing ceremonies began.
Charlotte Mann, president of the Cobb SCLC and parade co-chair with Lorraine Clonts, thanked the many participants.
“This day is about joining together, serving our community and making our lives better,” Mann said.
The Rev. Dr. Cheryl Graves, chair of the Cobb SCLC, encouraged listeners to explore their roles in “turning the dream into reality,” the chapter’s 2013 theme.
“Dr. King stood for equality, justice and service. He gave his life serving others,” she said. “We know that he served humanity, that he loved all people, and that he was a drum major for peace. Think about what you can do while you’re here on Earth to make life better for someone else, so that your living will not be in vain.”
Spectator Antionette Wright of Marietta said she was ecstatic to be celebrating the triple occasion of King Day, President Barack Obama’s inauguration and the anniversary of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, gunned down 50 years ago, whose widow Myrlie Evers-Williams delivered the inauguration prayer.
“Wow. All I can say is wow,” Wright said. “This is what I live for. This is the kind of camaraderie and community and humanity that I want to teach our children. Even though we’ve had trials and struggles, we’ve overcome.”
At the Cobb Civic Center, the county and Cobb NAACP staged a celebration around the theme, “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work,” during which the High Energy Dancers and Akili Dancers demonstrated their collaborative skills.
Shan Cooper, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, and Sammy Foster, president of Odyssey Productions, earned Living the Dream awards for embracing the ideals King exemplified.
The program included musical selections by singer Rebekah Glover and flutist Tairi Vita, and remarks by Cobb NAACP President Deane Bonner and Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin.