CHIPLEY - Bystanders could hear the echoes of the famous "I Have a Dream" speech throughout the parade route which snaked down Highway 90 and up 77 on a chilly Monday morning. Although there were no amazing floats and candy was not in full abundance, community leaders and everyday residents would join in support of the active fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream during a program held at Gilmore Park in Chipley.
"I encourage you to be all that you can be in this community - whatever community you are a part of," said Chipley Mayor Tracy Andrews, one of a number of speakers at the program.
"When you listen to Dr. King's speech ... and you begin to hear in his voice the passion of which he was speaking from: freedom for all," she said, noting that although he was speaking about injustice and hatred in his era, today, some people still sense that same injustice still exists. "But it does not have to be hatred among any of us."
In tears of humility, the mayor recited "My Country 'Tis of Thee."
"Some people lost their lives so that we can have life," she later said.
And life was what the parade and program brought to the Gilmore Park neighborhood. From music and giveaways to performances and soul food, the event left an impression on everyone in attendance: If anyone can make a change in this world, let it be you.
"I always feel a sense of accomplishment," said organizer Deborah Brown. I feel the goal to acknowledge Dr. MLK and his work has been accomplished at some level. The day did not come and go and the holiday was not acknowledged."
The parade in Chipley was instituted as a community parade in 1987 by Thomas J. Smith Jr., 72, who is now Associate Pastor at Mt. Arat, and the late Jerome Ramsey and Walter McCalister. Since the year of its inception, the Chipley community has celebrated the federally recognized holiday with a parade. Monday's event was hosted by Chipley Community Outreach.
King was assassinated April 4, 1968 and President Ronald Reagan signed King Holiday Bill into law on Nov. 2, 1983.
"You have a price to pay, you owe Dr. MLK and the civil rights, your fathers, and forefathers and grandparents to give life its best," Brown added, speaking about the importance of the holiday to the younger generations, "and to be the best human being you can possibly be."