Deborah Peoples marches on Monday.
Each step she takes across 19 blocks is a reminder of the work and dedication that helped open doors for people of all races, religions and sexual orientations, she explained.
“For me, it symbolizes the long walk to freedom,” said Peoples, who is the first female African American chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Party.
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King helped change society. The themes he raised are still relevant today for people working on a number of social fronts — from racial equality to worker rights to helping the homeless.
Residents will honor King in various ways across North Texas with events planned in Fort Worth, Arlington and Dallas. Some will celebrate by marching in parades, while others will volunteer to help others as part of the 4th Annual MLK Day of Service 2014.
In Fort Worth, parade participants will begin gathering for registration at 9:45 a.m. on Monday. The parade kicks off at 11 a.m. from Ninth and Commerce streets. The parade will include marchers, car clubs, elected officials, high school bands and alumni from graduating classes of I.M. Terrell High School.
I.M. Terrell High School was a campus for African American students during segregation.
Hundreds of people participated in the parade last year, said the Rev. Robert Jackson, current chair of the Greater Fort Worth Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Committee. The parade will end at Sundance Square Plaza, Jackson said. In years past, it has ended near the Water Gardens.
Jackson said King’s contributions need to be honored and remembered.
“It’s very important, not only for what he stood for, but to make sure we don’t reverse ourselves,” Jackson said.
Because of King’s work and vision, the members of the Tarrant County Democratic Party and candidates also plan to march in the parade.
“This is a very important parade for us,” said Paula Smith, communications director for the Tarrant County Democratic Party. “We will have a good crowd there.”
Peoples said she was 16 when the civil rights leader was assassinated. She remembers a segregated South.
“I am a product of the civil rights movement,” she said.
While many honor King at the parade, hundreds of volunteers will fan out throughout the community to serve.
“Dr. King was about helping the underprivileged,” said Jimmy Killingsworth, who is promoting service and volunteer work organized by the Tarrant Area Community of Churches. The organization, made of up several Christian denominations, works to minster throughout the county.
“His ministry was Jesus first, others second and yourself last,” Killingsworth said.
Rev. Melinda Veatch, executive director of Tarrant Area Community of Churches, said the MLK volunteer effort started in 2010 with 150 people who helped at 12 work sites.
This year, Veatch said they hope to get 400 volunteers to help at 35 sites.
Referring to some of King’s words, Veatch said: “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve and caring for one another in the community crosses boundaries and bridges divides and brings us all together.”