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Texas

Community Gathers to Honor Civil Rights Leader at First MLK Dallas Parade in 3 Years

Hands up in a constant cheer, Stephanie Joyner waved and shouted as cheerleaders and marching bands stomped on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to honor the slain civil rights leader.

Joyner grew up attending the MLK parade in Dallas, once dancing in it as a member of the South Oak Cliff High School sports club.

But this year was especially significant. The parade returned on Monday after a two-year absence due to the pandemic, and Joyner was jubilant.

“This is our community, our family,” said Joyner, 39, who lives in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas. “It’s nice to be back.”

Parade attendees echoed Joyner’s thoughts as tens of thousands of spectators lined MLK Boulevard to cheer for the procession of colorful floats, practice teams, jumpers, hula hoopers, church bands and school bands.

Organized by Dallas and the non-profit organization HELP, the parade drew over 150,000 spectators and 250 participants.

Participants, including Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and District Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins, walked about a mile from Holmes Street to Fair Park.

Dimitri Hughes, who lives in Oak Cliff with his wife Joyette, said the family is taking every opportunity to teach their sons, aged 4 and 7, about black history and culture.

“The influence of Martin Luther King Jr. was enormous,” Hughes, 39, said. “But for us, it’s not just one day.

Monday’s mood was celebratory, but there were a few dark moments as well.

One group carried signs that mentioned mass shootings targeting people of color, including the Tops supermarket shooting that killed 10 people last year in Buffalo, New York, and the 2019 shooting at a Walmart store in Buffalo, New York. El Paso, which killed 23 people.

Other posters read: “Black mental health matters”, “Racism is a public health issue”, and “Abolish the death penalty in Texas”.

Joyner said she wants her children, ages 6 to 21, to learn about the history of the civil rights movement so they can continue to fight for progress.

“We hold on to our history and don’t let it go,” she said. “We accept who we are.”

As the parade passed, Jazlyn Foote danced along MLK Boulevard with her 5-year-old son, Jadon. The two drove from Hearst to attend the parade and planned to celebrate later with a family barbecue.

“There was a time when blacks couldn’t gather like that,” Foote, 33, said. “We still have a long way to go, but we are getting there.”

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