A disagreement between two prominent African-American civic leaders in St. Petersburg over the future of the city's annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade is not in keeping with the late civil rights leader's embrace of peaceful discussion. State Rep. Darryl Rouson wants to transform the King holiday into a communitywide day of service and move the well-attended parade from Monday to the previous Saturday. Parade founder Sevell Brown doesn't want to move the parade, and tensions are escalating. There ought to be plenty of room to compromise.
Rouson has secured $500,000 in state money to give to organizations to create public service projects during the King holiday, an idea which has merit. He echoes concerns of others about the alcohol-fueled partying that has grown following the parade. It is commendable to try to expand the celebration to focus more on carrying out King's commitment to social consciousness.
To his credit, Brown has helped turn St. Petersburg's parade into the largest Martin Luther King Jr. parade in the Southeast. The celebration has been expanded into a weeklong series of events honoring King.
Good intentions should not fall victim to divisive intractability. There is no reason why a day of service and the parade cannot coexist. Rouson and Brown, who has refused to meet with the legislator, should be able to work this out with input from other city officials and civic leaders.
Martin Luther King Jr. helped bring people of divergent views together. Surely it's not too much to ask to find some common ground on celebrating King's legacy by simply talking to each other.