No MLK parade for first time in a decade

Published 9:50 am Thursday, January 14, 2016

For the first time in a decade, Vicksburg will not have a Martin Luther King Jr. parade.

Ten-year MLK parade organizer Sylvester Walker said he was ready to give up leadership, and he made an agreement with the city of Vicksburg to take over the parade, an agreement that city officials ended up not following through with.

“The city of Vicksburg was supposed to be planning it,” he said. “I gave it to them, and they dropped the ball.”

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Walker said there will be a parade next year.

“I’m trying to get the city to completely adopt it,” he said. “I asked them if they could take it from me so I could be the person to see it this year.”

Walker said he plans to be more involved next year to make sure the city gets the ball rolling.

“I just want it to be a city project so it will be a lot larger like the Mardi Gras and Christmas parade,” he said. “I want them to do it they way Jackson does their parade. I think that will be better for Vicksburg.”

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said he first met with Walker Monday about the parade Monday, but Flaggs didn’t think the parade would be a project the city would solely take on.

“I did tell him last year I would assist him, but my first knowledge of anything was (Monday) when he came by the office,” he said. “I’ll be more than happy to assist, but the city cannot put on an annual parade of that magnitude, and I don’t want to commit administration.”

Flaggs said to continue growing the parade, he thinks a committee should take it over, making it a community project.

“I told him it’s a noble cause, and I’d be willing to assist him next year, but I also told him too that I thought the parade has become bigger than one or two people. It needs the community to rally behind it and support it.”

Flaggs said the Malcolm Butler parade was pulled together quickly and successfully, but that the city can’t do that every year for an annual parade like the MLK event.

“I commend him,” he said. “I think Sylvester has done a great job trying to put this on by himself, and now I think the time has come that we need to call on the community to rally behind him and maybe we can have one of the best ones next year.”

Vicksburg NAACP President John Shorter said the city is making excuses.

“The city always says that they need someone else to head something, but it’s plenty of cities that sponsors parades and does recreation without an independent heading the project,” he said. “They don’t need a rec department if they cannot actually put on events.”

Shorter said the city is simply adding another layer of bureaucracy.

“They’re saying they really don’t want to do it, but they will if someone else will spearhead it,” he said. “That’s my interpretation of what the city of Vicksburg tries to use rather than them being out front on certain things.”

Shorter said the NAACP has been involved with the parades, previously getting the two public high schools involved, and he vowed there will be a parade next year.

The NAACP, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., and Blacks in Government will sponsor the The Martin Luther King Jr. Day program, which will be Monday at the Vicksburg Auditorium at 6 p.m. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will sponsor the speaker, Rev. Dr. Isiac Jackson, Jr., President, General Missionary Baptist State Convention of Mississippi, Inc., who will speak on the theme, “Non-Violence: The Sword That Heals.” The 2016 holiday observance will mark the 87th birthday of Rev. Dr. King and the 30th National Holiday in his honor.