It was a chilly MLK Jr. Day, but that didn’t stop Charles Cove from attending the DeKalb NAACP’s 17th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade.
On his lap was his two-and-a-half year old son Elijah, staring intently as the Arabia Mountain Marching Rams drummed their way in front of him along MLK Jr. Parkway/Highway 155 in the city of Stonecrest.
Elijah was bundled from head to toe against the frigid 40-degree temperature.
Besides it being “father-son time,” Cove said there was no question that he would be cheering the marchers on – and honoring the memory and legacy of King on what would have been his 90th birthday.
“Our ancestors sacrificed a lot,” said Cove, who lives in Decatur. “I had to take a couple of minutes out of my day to honor Dr. King. How can we expect anything to change if we do not honor his legacy?”
Cove, a former DeKalb County school teacher who now works with the Fulton County School district, said it is important to honor Dr. King, who led the 1960s fight for civil and voter rights in the United States.
He said the fight is not over.
“There are lots of unfinished business,” Cove said. “Just look what is going on in the White House. If not us, then who?”
King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and assassinated on April 4, 1968.
The national holiday in his honor is celebrated annually on the third Monday in January. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 brought fame to Stone Mountain when he said: “Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!”
MLK Jr. Day became a national holiday in 1986. This year’s parade also honored veterans and the late Sarah Copelin-Wood, who was parade/rally chair for its first 14 years.
Copelin-Wood, who served decades on the DeKalb NAACP Executive Board and represented DeKalb School Board District 3 for 15 years, died Aug. 16.
Her daughters Thomakia Copelin, Linda Copelin and Joyce Tripp served as the parade’s grand marshals.
More than 40 civic, social, faith-based and fraternal groups, sororities and fraternities, service clubs and others participated. High school marching bands from Cedar Grove Saints, Columbia Eagles, Cross Keys Chieftains, MLK Jr., McNair Mustangs, Stone Mountain Pirates and Tucker also marched in the parade
Markell Jordan, who is in her senior year at MLK Jr. High, was among the spectators watching and photographing the parade.
“I came out to thank Dr. King for our freedom,” she said. “If it wasn't for him, we wouldn’t be here right now."
Gary Mack, 73, watched the parade on Snapfinger Road with a buddy.
He said it is important to honor the memories of Dr. King and other civil rights fighters.
“Many sacrifices were made by many people, including myself,” he said. “Being one of the first to integrate my workplace was not easy.”
Mack, who lives in Decatur, has been retired for more than 20 years from the City of Atlanta IT department where he helped break down barriers to employment.
The parade culminated in a rally at the MLK High School.