DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Events all over Central Florida were held on Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday to honor the work of the iconic civil rights leader. Hundreds marched in Daytona Beach in one of the biggest turnouts organizers said they’ve had in years.
“This community has always embraced the vision. I’m always happy to see so many young people out here,” said Mayor Derrick Henry.
Marching down Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard towards the university in midtown Daytona Beach, hundreds cheered, sang and held signs with his phrases and pictures of King.
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“It was amazing today to finally be out beyond the walls of the pandemic. We did have a march last year as well but this time it had at least three to four times more people here,” said Dr. Connie Mitchell, the President of the National Council of Negro Women in Daytona Beach.
King visited Daytona Beach in 1958 and delivered the commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University. The college was founded by Mary McLeod Bethune who led a group of Black women to vote in 1920, inspiring King.
Now, 54 years since he was assassinated, few locals remember meeting or seeing him but his fight for equality continues, even in some of the youngest marching Monday.
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“His message is really great, and he did a lot for us. If he didn’t do that we would still be segregated,” said Treasure Larmone from Westside Elementary.
Some of the students from the elementary school carried books about King and other Civil Rights activists.
“It really just gets me into the spirit of seeing how Martin made our earth a better place,” said 3rd-grader Shiah from Westside.
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The fight looked a bit different on Monday, decades after King’s death. Some held signs for higher pay for teachers, some for better healthcare, others for democracy or voting rights, but they marched with a purpose just as King did.
“I was thinking about how his legacy has continued years and years and how many people still realize it’s still important for us to march and speak out for us to love and respect each other,” said resident Cheryl Chatman.
Those behind the march also said the day is about service, though: getting out and doing what you can.
“Even if you just go down your own street and pick up trash or something else you could do in maybe nearby parks or even the youth in your community,” Mitchell said.
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