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Thousands Celebrate Dr. King's Legacy At Annual Liberty City Parade

Kelsey Wright has been attending the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Liberty City for more than a decade. He says the parade is an outlet from daily worries. It also helps him connect with the man he grew up admiring. 

"I was in the era during that time when he came along, when he was still alive," Wright said. "Dr. King, he fought for rights for everyone."  

Wright was among thousands of people who lined the streets on Monday for the parade celebrating the life of King. As high school marching bands, fire engines and colorful floats went down the procession, paradegoers danced to music and kids played with silly string. Vendors sold parade classics like conch salad and containers of pineapple and mango. 

The route ended at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park where more children played on swings and jumped in bounce houses. 

Attendees said that as divisions persist across the local community and country, the parade is a rare opportunity for everyone to unite, regardless of their differences. 

King "wanted everybody to be seen as equal," Serena Johnson said. "We don't see any colors, we don't see any race, we don't see any sex. We're just all equal...Come together and respect each other as we want to be respected." 

Shootings have occurred during previous parades. People on Monday said violence was not a concern thanks in part to a large police presence. 

But despite the overall joyous mood at the parade, political issues like the ongoing federal government shutdown weighed on some people. 

Carrie Floyd sat at a table along the street dicing green pepper for her homemade conch salad. Floyd, who has sickle cell anemia, said she receives food stamps from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said food stamp payments will continue in February. But benefits could be cut in March. Floyd said that could make it harder for her to find food. 

"They have a lot of food banks, but you have to stand in a long line," she said. "Sometimes when you get up there, there's nothing there to get." 

Still, Floyd said the parade provided a reprieve from her worries. She remembers segregation when police water-hosed her parents in Liberty City during the civil rights movement. 

"We have rights to do certain things that we couldn't do before," she said. "We can all vote now. We can all work now." 

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