TAMPA, Fla. — Hundreds of people joined in a big celebration in Tampa on Monday to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tampa’s MLK parade is a staple in the community, returning after a brief hiatus last year due to the pandemic.
Many families said they've been attending the parade for a long time and love to see it back to bring their children to again.
“Being a part of the community, be a part of something that I grew up with,” said Tamika Hepburn, who attended the parade. “Bring a part of that history back so they can know where we came from, know why we celebrate it, be proud to celebrate MLK.”
Hundreds of people lined the sidewalks in east Tampa along a two-mile route through the community. Organizers say the parade has been around for more than 30 years, and Vincent Scott came to the very first one.
“It was very small, but then St. Pete always had the larger parade, so then we go to St. Pete, and then some years we stay here,” said Scott. “But since Florida A&M and Bethune is here today, I said, I’m staying in Tampa today.”
The Florida A&M and Bethune Cookman University marching bands were just part of the celebration to honor MLK Day. The tradition this year featured floats, dancers, even WWE superstar Titus O’Neil as the Grand Marshal.
“Culturally, it means everything because we as a people sometimes get divided, but this parade brings us together,” said Alethea Winston. “It brings culture into the community. It brings money into the community, business. Everyone profits from this particular parade, so we’re glad to bring our heritage to Tampa Bay and let everybody know, hey we’re here, and we’re here to stay.”
Organizers asked people to do their part to stay safe, whether that meant wearing a mask or social distancing along the parade route. Parade-goers were touched by the reason behind the day, remembering Dr. King’s service and sacrifice.
“Civil rights, it’s our rights. That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life for and along with all the other ones that marched alongside him,” said Scott. “We need to take time and take it all in, take the experience in and look back and the past and see what our relatives sacrificed for and come out like we say and be part of the community.”