Known as a drum major for justice, hundreds gathered in Meridian to honor the man who, during his time, marched to the beat of a somewhat different drum. With much pomp and circumstance, scores gathered in downtown to celebrate the life and legacy of the man with a dream, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"It's just a continuous message that unity, participation, keeping the dream alive by youth input, your participation," said parade chairman Greg Lane.
In a program following the parade, local dignitaries talked about the importance of reflecting on Dr. King's dream perhaps now more than ever.
"As a community this year, we have been challenged," said Mayor John Robert Smith of Meridian. "We have been shaken to our very core by the tragic killings at Lockheed."
Noting that everyone perhaps will not achieve or receive the notoriety of Dr. King, speakers encouraged everyone to at least do something.
"Time has moved on and I am convinced that preparing you to do what you will do is as important as remembering what he did," said guest speaker, R.D. Harris, principal of Meridian High School. "Say 'I'll go in the community and help the sick. I'll go to the community and serve. I'll go to the community. I'll do what I can to make life better.' Dr. King's dream is not dead and it's up to me and you to keep that dream alive! So, let freedom ring, let freedom ring!"
Earlier Monday, leaders and citizens gathered for the annual Martin Luther King prayer breakfast. It was initiated by Rowena Jennings in her own home 19 years ago. The number of participants has moved the event to restaurants for many years.
"It was important to remember Dr. Martin Luther King for all the things that he had done. And it was a situation at that time where it had just got started. I think it was about the first or second year that it was a national holiday," said Willie Mae Brown of the NAACP Women's Auxiliary.
"Any race can come across the seas and became an integral part and brought right on into the American dream," said guest speaker, the Rev. Charles Johnson of Fitkins Memorial Church of the Nazarene. "But African Americans who have lived here and fought here and died on the battlefields across the world, still is the last one hired and the first one fired."
Johnson said people should not be complacent, but continues to pursue Martin Luther King's dream.