Thousands attend MLK parade in Denver | AspenTimes.com

Thousands attend MLK parade in Denver

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Thousands marching in Denver's annual parade marking the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday make their way down Esplanade after coming out of City Park on Monday January 19, 2009. (AP Photo/rocky Mountain News, Darin McGregor)
AP | ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS

DENVER ” Thousands of people marched through Denver’s streets to honor Martin Luther King Jr., one day before what they see as one realization of the slain civil rights leader’s dream ” the inauguration of America’s first black president.

About 20,000 people gathered at the end of Monday’s 3-mile “marade” ” march and parade ” at Civic Center Park. It was the same park where Barack Obama, nearing the eve of his election, drew a crowd estimated at well over 100,000 people.

Denver’s parade honoring King is one of the country’s largest, sometimes drawing as many as 30,000 people. This year, participants said, was even more memorable because of Obama’s pending inauguration.

“It’s the biggest deal you can imagine,” said Terrie Lewis, 51, as she watched the parade from the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception near the Capitol. “We’re all familiar with Dr. King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. Obama is bringing the dream to life.”

Lewis’ day care students sat in tiny plastic chairs at the edge of the sidewalk, watching and cheering.

Black and white, young and old, bands and drill teams marched along Colfax Boulevard to commemorate King and celebrate Obama’s imminent presidency. People carried children, pushed strollers, rode bicycles and carried multicolored banners and signs. One banner read, “Someday is here” ” a reference to King’s 1963 “I have a Dream” speech.

King Day events were being held around the state ” and Coloradans also volunteered at a series of “Call to Service” community events. Michelle Obama and other leaders had urged citizens to mark the holiday by helping others.

In Denver, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission teamed up with the Food Bank of the Rockies on a food and fundraising drive. The University of Colorado-Boulder scheduled workshops, a rally and a human rights fair. Volunteers organized food and blood drives, cleaned parks, helped at youth tutoring sites and prepared meals for the homeless.

On an almost spring-like day under clear blue skies, the crowd at Denver’s Civic Center Park largely filled the center as speakers arrived at its Greek ampitheater.

“It’s electric. It is just indescribable. There is just an energy ” you almost can’t put a label on it,” said Mary Tellis, 52, of Denver, a pastor at Solomon Temple Missionary Baptist Church. Motioning to the sky, she declared: “In the midst of winter, it’s just like summer ” from the inside out.”

Tellis said as exciting as it will be to see Obama take office, she believes the achievement of equality in America is just beginning.

During Tuesday’s inauguration, Tellis said, she expects that “King’s voice is going to be echoing in everything.”

Homero Ocon, 38, pushed a baby stroller along the parade route as he walked beside a banner that read, “We have a Dream ” Immigration Reform ” Stop the Raids.” A crowd chanted in English and Spanish, “The people united will never be divided!”

“We support Obama, and at the same time we want our voices to be heard,” Ocon said. “We want to keep the movement alive.”

Drew Edmondson, 59, a Vietnam-era veteran, said he has marched in Denver’s King parade every year since 1987.

“In a world that lacks a lot of joy, this is a little more three miles of joy, whatever the year,” Edmondson said, walking with his wife, Judy. “Obviously, this year is a little more special.”


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