There were kids posing with police horses, young fraternity brothers and sorority sisters stepping lively to the music and a woman with gray hair and smooth moves showing off her roller skating skills.
But there were also representatives from Baltimore Ceasefire and from MOMS (Mothers of Murdered Sons) – reminders of a year when Baltimore suffered through a record number of homicides, among other troubles.
The blend of somber and soulful at Baltimore’s 18th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade today was fitting, not only because it capped a tough 12 months for the city but because the event almost didn’t happen this year.
“It’s great to come out and see the marching bands and everything. I’m so glad Mayor Pugh didn’t cancel it,” said Tynette Galltin, who was standing on the parade route with her 7-year-old daughter Maya.
Galltin was referring to Mayor Catherine Pugh’s proposal to replace the parade with a day of service and a battle of the bands, an idea she dropped after public outcry.
“I was upset when I heard it. We’ve been coming to the parade every year for a long time,” said Galltin, 43.
Maya, clutching a drawing of Dr. King, was asked what she knew about him. “Well, that he died,” she said.
“Yes, he did die,” her mother said, taking a moment before continuing. “But he was a really great man. And we will always remember him.”
Stepping up and Speaking out
Amid parade perennials – like the Dunbar High School Marching Band and Drumline – current causes were on display as well.
There were signs and banners proclaiming “Health Care is a Human Right,” “Justice for Freddie Gray,” Heat the Schools, Fire the Cops” and “African, Haiti, El Salvador, We Love You!”
(The latter was a reference to President Donald Trump’s recent crude and racist remark about countries whose residents he wants to keep out of the U.S.)
One issue was raised in the form of a comment directed specifically at Pugh as she and Parade Grand Marshal (and finalist on “The Voice”) Davon Fleming swept by.
“Hey, mayor, how about that $15 minimum wage?” a man said, referencing the minimum wage measure Pugh vetoed last year after promising on the campaign trail that if elected she’d sign it.
Smiling and giving him the thumbs-up sign, Pugh answered, “You got it!”
More photos from the parade by Fern Shen: