A parade designed to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his work has sparked a boycott of the event designed to honor the civil rights leader.
Ever since it was announced that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott would serve as the honorary grand marshal of the Toyota North Texas Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade & Celebration in Arlington on Jan. 15, minority leaders have criticized his involvement.
Monday, a handful of them called for a boycott of the parade geared to unite six counties — Tarrant, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Kaufman and Collin — in recognizing King.
Abbott “not only hasn’t stood for the ideals of Martin Luther King Jr., but has stood against the ideals of Martin Luther King Jr.,” said the Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood, who participated in a news conference calling for the boycott. With him, “we don’t have a keeper of the dream. We have a killer of the dream.”
Hood and others said Abbott’s work, which includes requiring Texans to have photo IDs to vote, a change that some have long said disenfranchises minority voters, is one reason the governor shouldn’t serve as honorary grand marshal of a parade honoring King.
“This is an insult to the black community. This is an insult to the King family,” said Dominique R. Alexander, president and founder of the Next Generation Action Network. “This is an insult to the community in North Texas. We call for an effective boycott” of the parade.
The governor still plans to participate in the Arlington parade.
“The parade is an opportunity to celebrate and honor the life and legacy of Dr. King and reflect on the triumphs, tragedies, and lessons of the past,” said Ciara Matthews, Abbott’s deputy communications director. “It’s a shame that some are politicizing what should be a unifying event.
“Governor Abbott’s participation will be focused on the remembrance of a man who made an important mark on history, and he looks forward to attending this event.”
Organizers initially said Abbott would ride on a float with Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson and Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson.
Wilson sent out a statement Monday noting she never planned to be in the parade.
“It’s never been my personal practice to participate in parades,” she said. “I believe my community outreach is better served by being able to listen to individuals in more personal settings.”
And Johnson plans to be a grand marshal in the Dallas MLK Day parade. Her office said she was asked to do the same for the Arlington parade.
“DA Johnson told the Arlington organizers, if she were to participate in their parade, at most she could offer was to be at the very end as the citizens of Dallas take precedent,” a statement from her office said.
Ruby Woolridge, a Democrat in the crowded race to replace U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, originally planned to be in the Arlington parade.
But she now is choosing to instead be in the Waxahachie MLK parade because of the governor’s presence.
“People are asking the governor not to come,” Woolridge said. “People are concerned about his policies.”
The 0.8 mile parade — which kicks off at 10 a.m. Jan. 15 and will include bands, floats, elected officials, car clubs and more — will start at AT&T Way and Cowboys Way, head north and turn east on Randol Mill Road. It will turn north on Ballpark Way and end on Road to Six Flags, according to parade organizers.
More information about the parade and related events can be found online at www.northtexasmlk.com.
Other local parades will continue, such as the Fort Worth MLK parade scheduled downtown at 11 a.m. Jan. 15.
What would MLK want?
The Arlington NAACP last week put out a statement noting that they do not support the parade.
A 7 p.m. Thursday town hall will be held at the Greater Missionary Baptist Church, 126 E. Park Row Drive in Arlington,to determine the response “to Gov. Abbott riding in the Tarrant County MLK parade as Honorary Grand Marshal.”
“Gov. Abbott’s support of legislation, his policies, that have negatively impacted communities of color ... are not in line with Dr. King’s work or his philosophy,” said Alisa Simmons, president of the Arlington NAACP.
Winsor Barbee, the media contact for the Toyota parade, said she was aware of the criticism about the governor’s participation. “We’ve all been keeping an eye on the protests,” she said.
But she said the parade is geared to be inclusive. When asked who invited Abbott to participate in the parade, Barbee said, “Let’s get off the fact that he’s invited to come.”
“Everyone is going to boycott a man,” she said. “If people think Dr. King would want them to do that, then they should.”
Kyev Tatum, president of the Tarrant County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that will march in the Arlington parade, stressed that many welcome the governor to the parade.
And he said critics could look to King for advice.
“MLK Day is a day to try to make your enemies your friends,” Tatum said.