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Lack of Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Hernando a failure by community

Really, how hard is it to organize a parade?

You get permission from the local government. You contact groups and businesses that might be interested in sponsoring a float. Maybe you canvas the neighborhoods along the route, just to let folks know a parade is coming and they'll have a little trouble getting out of their driveways for a couple of hours.

It's a little harder now that the city of Brooksville is charging for police officers to control traffic.

But it's far from impossible.

The Brooksville Kiwanis Club, sponsors of the city's annual Christmas Parade, has managed to pull it off for 37 straight years.

For more than two decades, the other traditional parade in Brooksville was on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Not this year.

Nor, for the first time in recent history, will there be a picnic that day. The only event honoring King this weekend, an ecumenical service at Grace World Outreach Church, will be held at 3:30 p.m. today.

The Shiloh Problem Solvers just couldn't get any support for a parade or picnic, said founder Clarence Clark.

Starting a month ago, he sent out emails and fliers to businesses, churches and nonprofit groups, including the NAACP. Nobody got back to him, he said, probably because he requested $25 for groups to walk and $45 if they wanted to enter a float.

Shiloh needed the money, he said, because the city's new traffic control fees and the county's charge to hold the picnic at Kennedy Park were expected to bring the cost of the event to more than $600.

Paul Douglas, outgoing president of the local NAACP, said Clark did indeed contact him and the organization's board approved $45 for a float. Then he waited to hear back from Shiloh, he said, and never did.

Really, deciding which leader and which organization is more to blame is not the main issue. It's the general lack of commitment to preserving King's legacy.

Neither Douglas nor anyone else from the NAACP, apparently, cared enough to follow up with Shiloh to see what was up with the parade plans. Clark didn't call those churches and businesses to see why they hadn't responded. And, of course, these churches and businesses had already demonstrated their apathy by not responding in the first place.

And it's all a shame. Shameful, even.

I remember the work that went into the early parades, which followed a route from South Brooksville to the city's historic courthouse. The national holiday had only been observed since 1986 and some white people in town still referred to it with a racial slur.

Letting this tradition die is disservice to the people who established it in Brooksville. It's a greater disservice, of course, to King himself, and the heroism he displayed in organizing history-changing events such as the Montgomery (Ala.) bus boycott.

Douglas knows this as well as anyone. He's a native of Montgomery, and even as a sixth-grader realized the hardship endured by his neighbors, some of whom lost jobs because they honored the boycott. And now, he finds, many young people he talks to have never even heard of it.

"It's sad. The awareness of the importance of these events has just gone to pot," he said.

Maybe next year he'll feel like doing something about it.

Lack of Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Hernando a failure by community 01/14/12 [Last modified: Saturday, January 14, 2012 12:55pm]
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