MLK Day marches honoring his legacy in SWFL

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The Collier County NAACP put together the MLK Day parade for the first time in three years in Naples. But, as people celebrated the great holiday, many also took time to reflect.

Joyous and celebratory because it has been a long time since the community celebrated Doctor Martin Luther King altogether.

But, among the dancing and music, there was also sincere gratitude for everything King did for black Americans.

People marching in Naples celebrating MLK Day. CREDIT: WINK News

The energy in Downtown Naples was infectious on Monday as the City of Naples hosted its first MLK Day parade in three years.

Tim Stready, from Naples, lined up on 5th Avenue very early to be able to take everything in.

“I think it’s for everybody, and it’s beautiful to see everybody come together,” Stready said. “It’s exciting.”

A person marching holding a picture of MLK. CREDIT: WINK News

While everyone enjoyed the entertainment, it was an opportune moment to look back on Dr. King’s legacy and the civil rights movement as a whole.

“A day to think back to remember all those people that came before me and all the sacrifices they made in order for me to have some of the freedoms that I enjoy today,” Mamon Powers Jr., a Naples resident, said.

“He had a vision, a dream, that everyone be treated fairly no matter what race or anything, you know what I mean, and back then it really was a dream, but now it’s, you know people are living up to it racism is still out there it’s never gonna end, but times have changed,” Danielle DeFranco, a Naples resident, said.

The parade ended in Camibier Park, where booths were set up for different local organizations.

People also took to the streets in Dunbar, where they marched with bells, whistles, and drums.

The march symbolizes the march Dr. King took in 1965 and its impact on day-to-day life, even in 2023. Whether it was watched from the street or marched alongside those involved, every person WINK News spoke with said that they not only wanted to be a part of the march, they felt as if they had to.

Jessie Strong was one of those people who simply couldn’t miss out on the event. Strong was one of many wearing an MLK Jr. shirt at the commemorative Dunbar march.

MLK Day march in Dunbar. CREDIT: WINK News

Tonya Rodriguez was another example of a person who couldn’t miss out on the event.

“Every year that they began, I’ve always walked – this year, I cannot walk due to my medical reasons. But I will sit here and watch the rest of the world,” Rodreguez said.

Over 100 people marched from the Dunbar community school, which ended at Centennial Park. The reasons they said they came out may be different, but it all boiled down to one.

“There’s just so much unjust unrest, and to come out to put it, you know, on the back burner for right now. Let’s just forget about the bad for the day. And just think about all the marvelous things that Dr. Martin Luther King has done for us. Yes, I mean, look at the people. Chills, I get chills just watching this and what it represents,” Brenda Ruiz said while watching the march,” Brenda Ruiz said while watching the march.

It’s not only what it represents, but it’s also who is being represented.

“I think this is that thing where we’re actually teaching our young folks how important it is to always remember and always have that mindset of how we can do better as a community,” Tracy McMillion, the Dunbar fire chief, said.

Poster made honoring MLK Day. CREDIT: WINK News

It was all smiles at the Dunbar march, and it was beautiful to see the community come together.

Chief McMillion said it’s important we have marches, like the one in Dunbar, every year so younger generations realize no matter their color or creed, we’re all equal.

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