Stampede of bulls: students from the College of Education wave to parade-goers as they make their way down First Ave. Delaney Brown | The Crow’s Nest
By Delaney Brown
The sound of drums filled the air as horses paced down the normally quiet Dali Boulevard. USF St. Petersburg students and faculty milled about floats as they anxiously waited for the Martin Luther King Day parade to start.
St. Petersburg’s parade is one of the largest in the country. In past years, over 100,000 people have lined the city streets to celebrate the civil rights icon. Despite the nippy air that morning, crowds still turned out for the celebration.
“Today is a day to come together and think of the world as it could be,” said Milton White, assistant director of Veteran Services.
It’s one parade, but there are a hundred reasons to be there. Some participate to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., while some see the parade as a way to spread school spirit.
For Allyson Watson, Dean of the College of Education, walking in the parade is a way to commemorate her family’s past. Her great uncle, Gilbert Henry Leggett, was an early civil rights activist in St. Petersburg. He moved to the city in the 1930s and played a major role in integrating the town.
Watson walked in the mile-long parade for the first time with her husband and three kids in tow, connecting with the community and her family legacy.
Meanwhile, Lisa Negrini has walked in the parade for the past ten years with the university’s Family Study Center. The center works through the university to provide services to infants that support and strengthen families.
“The parade is a way for the community to see us,” said Negrini. “It lets us connect with the community we serve and celebrate the memory of Dr. King.”
Others see the parade as a way to share a sense of school pride.
“It’s a way to represent USFSP,” said Kate Walker, sophomore mass communication major, beaming with school pride as she and the South Florida All Stars dance team made their way down the parade route. “We are here to have fun and show St. Petersburg that the university has a dance team.”
Homecoming Queen Shani Tracey oversaw the crowd of students and faculty from atop of her glittering green and gold float. The junior has participated in the parade every year, but this is her first time observing as royalty; she’d been practicing her “royal wave” for that very occasion.
“It’s all about keeping your fingers closed and cupped,” said Tracey.
Erin Dean, a sophomore education major, was marching in the parade for the first time. She came at the urging of Dean Watson.
“As the College of Education, we need to be the first to step up into a position of service,” said Watson. Dean stood holding a banner with Watson’s daughter, who struggled to hold the sign that was almost bigger than she was.
Ysatis Jordan, who is Miss Ebony, threw beads into the crowd of kids that were jockeying for a prime spot along the parade route. For her, the parade is all about the children.
“As Miss Ebony I want to be a leader in the community,” said Jordan. “ I want to show today’s youth that college is an option. I want to inspire them and push them to pursue their dreams.”
Quintina Killings, a junior psychology major and president of the Black Student Association, felt the same way.
“Black people are still underrepresented in our colleges,” said Killings. “(The Black Student Association) wants to be a beacon of light.”
For Killings, walking in the parade is a no-brainer.
“The only way to make a difference is by starting with yourself,” said Killings. “You’ve got to be inclusive. You’ve got to be the one to give back. You’ve got to live the message.”