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39th Annual MLK Parade Celebrates Legacy in South Dade

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Posted: Friday, January 13, 2017 10:23 am | Updated: 10:35 am, Fri Apr 7, 2017.

Jeffery Brown remembers as a kid needing to drive to Miami to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. by attending a parade.

He remembers asking his dad, Willie Brown Sr., "Why do we have to go all the way to Miami to celebrate?"

Then the idea formed: have a parade in South Dade. That is how Brown remembers the MLK Parade and festival being born, with a seedling of an idea.

Now, 39 years later, that seedling has become an institution in Florida City and Homestead. This Saturday the parade will start at 1125 SW 4th Street, heading east on 4th and then south on 6th into Lauren Roberts Park, at 627 NW 6th Ave in Florida City. Once at the park a festival will offer food, fun activities and entertainers.

"We invite school bands from all over Miami-Dade," Brown told the News Leader of the parade and festival. "and non-profits are invited to participate as well."

The Brown family decided to hold the parade on the Saturday before the MLK holiday as to not step on the toes of already-established parades and celebrations. It has served them well for nearly four decades.

"We wanted to bring the knowledge of what he did to the world," said Brown. "We wanted the children to celebrate not just a day off but his legacy."

The importance of the festival is not just of his family, who all pitch in to ensure it runs smoothly, but it also means something to the community at large.

His favorite example is a parade just after Hurricane Andrew. That weekend there was a down pour- it seemed as if they might have to call it. The children in the bands were apprehensive about the ultimate decision, Brown remembers it was important for them to play. When his dad gave the okay the bands joyfully played their instruments in the harsh weather conditions.

"They were having a wonderful time," Brown remembers. "They enjoyed it because they looked forward to it every year."

Brown says he and his family appreciate all the support they get from the community. The cities of Florida City and Homestead routinely donate to the cause.

Over the years he admits there have been some "pitfalls from now and then."

The funding is sometimes slim but they find a way.

The biggest threat was when his father died. For a moment he didn't know if he should keep it going.

Brown remembers Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace weighing in on it.

"Do you think I should keep the parade going?" he asked Wallace.

"Your dad would have had it no other way," Wallace reassured him.

And they did.

Not being content with the current success, Brown vowed - almost as a challenge to himself - that next year would be "bigger and better."

Never the less this year will be filled with "good food, fun, and a great time," he said. "Enjoy the parade, and enjoy the festival."

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