Together: Gifford MLK parade, program brings unity, music, performances

Gifford Youth Achievement Center students march in the MLK Jr. Parade on Jan. 15, 2024. PHOTO BY JOSHUA KODIS

GIFFORD — The spirit of solidarity flourished at the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade along 45th Street, where residents gathered to see creative floats, marching band performances and banners showing King’s image along with some of his famous quotes. A program held afterwards beneath the gray skies featured poetry, Christian rap, mime showcase, dances and singing.

“I think it’s very important for our students and community to continue the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. We cannot allow his dreams to die after he was assassinated,” said Curtis Webb, director of youth programs at the Gifford Youth Achievement Center – one of many organizations to march in this year’s parade.

“He fought for the rights of all people so we can do what we’re doing today. Progress has been made, but we still have a long way to go. Keep the fight moving forward.”

The parade was held at 10 a.m. on Monday – the Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal observance and the birthday of the civil rights icon. The route began on 28th Court next to Gifford Middle School, then west along 45th Street, north on 43rd Avenue and ended at the Victor Hart Sr. Community Enhancement Complex.

Residents grilled in their front yards while others sat in lawn chairs waiting in anticipation for the parade to roll down 45th Street. The grand marshal for this year’s parade was Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, a longtime community activist recognized for organizing voter registration drives and efforts to restore voting rights to returning citizens.

The theme for this year’s event was “Together We Are the Dream.” Vehicles were decorated with some of Dr. King’s quotes including “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Following the parade, The Indian River County Pastor’s Association held a program at Victor Hart Sr. Community Enhancement Complex, which also had several food vendors. Leaders led the audience in singing the Black National Anthem and gave inspirational messages.

Then, attendees enjoyed what many said was a series of powerful, moving performances from different artists, along with a set by the Indian River Charter High School Jazz Band.

Jakiyah Parris recited a poem she wrote called “We Are the Dream.” Parris said the poem’s message was to work hard no matter what and to always believe in yourself.

“Don’t listen to the dream crushers,” said Parris, 20, of Vero Beach. “Keep pushing.”

Wendell Huckaby, 41, of Texas, who goes by the stage name “The Chosen One,” did a mime presentation with Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech playing in the background.

Everette Mills, a worship leader at New Generation Apostolic Holiness Church in Vero Beach, performed Christian rap at the program.

Mills, who has the stage name Eternity PNR (Preaching and Rhythm), said most people only acknowledge Dr. King as a Black activist who fought for civil rights. But King – a Baptist church minister – was also a brother in Christ, a preacher and a man of faith who changed the world through ministry, Mills said.

“Not only do I encourage the Black culture to support (King) but the Christian and every culture,” said Mills, 32, of Vero Beach. “I stand with and in support of one who fought and died that love and unity should abound in earth, to finish the message of the ever-growing kingdom of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

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