MLK Day offered dueling Houston parades

January 18, 2010 5:57:50 PM PST
On what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's 81st birthday, there was a call to come together and celebrate his legacy as one. The theme of Houston's two big parades as always was unity, but for those parades it's still elusive. Nothing says parade like a Marine band, school marching bands and a pair of dueling parades.

"Maybe we need better coordination, but we can't have too many," said Congressman Al Green.

The Congressman and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee were both part of the MLK Grand Parade. It wound along Allen Parkway while the Original MLK Day Parade was underway around Minute Maid Park.

There were 160 entries in the Original MLK Day Parade, the Black Heritage Society says, and plenty of bands, but one of the biggest crowd pleasers was a group carrying the Haitian flag.

As large as the parade was, its founder says the competing route has cut into its numbers.

"There are a lot of people not participating because they said we do not want to be in the controversy," said Ovide Duncantell of the Black Heritage Society.

That's the fight that's gone on for more than a decade when the Grand Parade staged its own event.

"Maybe they can sit down and one year, one parade group takes the lead and rotate. But make it a day of parades rather than a day of competing paraDes," said Dr. Derek King, MLK's nephew.

In the end though, the parades did what was intended - brought people together, put children on their parents' shoulders and made people smile.

A flip of the coin next year will determine which parade gets the prime real estate of the downtown parade route.

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