The Fort Worth of Sharon Mason Ford’s childhood wasn’t as welcoming as it was Monday, where crowds lining downtown streets cheered and clapped as she marched past, proudly holding up posters of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ford, now 61, recalls the hatred and rejection she experienced as one of only eight black children in her predominantly white Fort Worth middle school after it desegregated in the 1960s.
“We were treated badly. We were harassed and spit at,” Ford said of her turbulent eighth grade year. “They threw pennies at us to say that we were worth nothing.”
Fort Worth has come a long way in the five decades since, Ford said. On Monday, she joined thousands of residents of all backgrounds to celebrate peace, love and unity downtown as part of the Greater Fort Worth Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Committee’s 30th annual parade and rally.
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“It shows we can all live the dream,” said Ford, who plans on running for the Fort Worth City Council District 8 seat in May. “We can come together and walk hand in hand.”
The holiday parade ended with a well-attended rally in Sundance Square Plaza, where local school marching bands entertained the crowd after a spoken word performance by Jubilee Theatre.
“The parade in Fort Worth gives us a chance to celebrate and acknowledge the sacrifices and work of Dr. King and other civil rights advocates and leaders during that time,” said Roderick Miles, who has coordinated the parade and rally the past five years. “It also provides an opportunity for people of all colors to come together for one united goal and purpose and that is to recognize racial equality and social justice for all. It serves as a reminder of the work that is before us and is yet to be done.”
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, City Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray and Tarrant County Justice of the Peace Lisa Woodard served as the parade grand marshals.
The message of peace, unity and celebrating diversity remains important, Price said.
“Dr. King was a man of tremendous vision who was not afraid to dream. And his dream has resonated now for all these years and doesn’t seem to lose any spirit,” Price said. “It’s a dream we must all aspire to, to love one another, to work for the common good, but just as importantly, to practice forgiveness of those we don’t agree with.”
Crowley residents Harold and Stephanie Schuman decided to bring their 5-year-old twins, Isaiah and Iyana, to the parade after reading a children’s book on King’s dream of peace and equality. It was a message the kids have taken to heart, their mother said.
“You should be nice and don’t fight,” Isaiah said. “You should talk and shake hands.”
Kenny and Jacquline Loggins brought their young son Brandon, and their granddaughters Madison and Malaiah Ross to the parade. Kenny Loggins, who was in the sixth grade when his school became integrated in the 1960s, said it can be difficult to explain the challenges his generation and previous generations once faced.
“Our kids, they only know what they see and hear. If we don’t keep it in their face so they can see it and hear it, they will forget about it,” Loggins said. “Kids don’t know no different. They all get along. You see all different races and religions playing together nowadays.”
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639