Elberton's MLK parade draws surprise band appearance
* By Jennifer Crossley Howard
* Anderson Independent Mail
* Posted January 16, 2011 at 8:56 p.m.
ELBERTON, GA. — Ice was still in downtown Elbert, Ga., Sunday, but that did not stop people from dancing to the beats of a surprise appearance from a college marching band at the 17th annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade.
Morris Brown College from Atlanta performed toward the end of the parade, drawing people into Elbert Street to watch and listen.
Warren County High School and Elbert County High School bands joined gospel music groups and churches to honor civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. during the town’s annual event. Participants celebrated by singing from truck beds and by driving shiny antique cars, but so many people came for what Erma Baker calls the best part of the parade — “the bands.”
Earlier in the week, parade chairwoman Mary Morrison Clark was concerned ice would stop the Morris Brown band from traveling.
“We didn’t put it in the paper because we were not quite sure if they were going to be able to come here because of the ice storm,” she said.
Whitney Letson’s eyes lit up when she talked about the band.
“I was surprised that they got Morris Brown to come down here,” said Letson, 15, wearing her black sequined Elbert County High School color guard outfit. “They’re like my all-time favorite band.”
The college is located on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Atlanta.
Carrissa Goss, 18, comes to the parade every year and brought her mother for the first time on Sunday. If King were alive in 2011 he’d approve of the progress in racial harmony, she said.
“He would be proud,” she said.
Baker said the turnout at the parade was nice, but there was too much distance between clusters of watchers on the sidewalks.
DeVon Willingham, 42, of Atlanta said one thing stops people from fully embracing King’s dream of unity.
“I think most people today don’t love themselves so they can’t love anyone else,” he said.
Willingham had returned to his hometown Sunday to watch the parade.
Clark estimated about 2,500 people came out to see the parade, quite a step up from its beginnings in 1994.
“We now have all segments of the community participating,” she said.
The parade started because Clark wanted to go to Atlanta’s MLK parade, but an Elberton church always held services on the holiday. She didn’t want to go to another town so she decided Elberton needed its own.
It’s grown this year to 90 entries.
“It’s a very diverse group and we’re proud to see that,” she said.
Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations continue Monday at Elberton’s Blackwell Cultural Center. Students will compete in the annual Academic Bowl, answering questions about the civil rights leader’s life and legacy. The competition begins at 10 a.m. and an oratory contest follows. http://www.independentmail.com/news/2011/jan/16/elbertons-mlk-parade-draws-surprise-band-appearanc/