MLK parade honors icon

Published 8:23 am Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bernetta Character loves to see young people lining the streets of Brookhaven to honor a man she’s respected for most of her life.

The president of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County branch of the NAACP saw plenty Sunday during the 13th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parade. Teenagers and children were not only on the sidelines watching the parade, but several were in it as well.

Character marched with the civil rights activist when she lived in Chicago. The first time was when she was about 12 or 13. Then at 17, she marched with King to Soldiers Field in 1966 to hear him take on Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and others over open housing for African Americans.

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“At the time, I didn’t realize the effect he would have on me. I just wanted to be in his presence because he’d been through so much,” she said.

She didn’t have a count  of how many attended the parade, but saw many groups of people lining Second Street, Main Street, Martin Luther King Drive and Beauregard Street.

“We had a better turnout than last year,” she said. “I think the weather played a great role.”

This year’s grand marshals were District 1 Supervisor Rev. Jerry Wilson and his wife, Brookhaven Ward 3 alderman, Mary L. Wilson, who also serves as mayor pro-tem. “They are both making history now by holding positions that was not always allowed,” Character said recently.

She said the parade is a way to honor people like the Wilsons. “We have people who have paved the way for the younger generation,” she said.

Several city and county officials as well as units from the Brookhaven Fire Department participated in the parade.

The parade was originally started by Rose “Polly” Powell. The NAACP chapter took it over in 2011 and has been in charge ever since. The chapter goes out in the community to ask churches, individuals, motorcycle clubs and car clubs to be a part of this event.