Mount Olive marks month with Black History Parade
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 27, 2011 1:50 AM
News-Argus/MICHAEL K. DAKOTA
A member of Rosewood's ROTC unit performs a twirling demonstration while marching down Breazeale Avenue during the Black History Month Parade on Saturday in Mount Olive.
MOUNT OLIVE -- Entrants for the third annual Black History Month parade began arriving more than two hours before the 1 p.m. start time.
Organizer Ricky Faire, a member of the Unity Group, which sponsors of the event, greeted each representative, checked off his list and directed participants to their assigned spot in the lineup.
Introduced to the community in 2008 as a local event to celebrate Black History Month, the parade has grown by leaps and bounds, with more than 420 entries this year, Faire said.
"It has grown faster than we anticipated," he said. "But it's been a good three years. People are coming back year after year and we're bringing in new talent year after year."
In addition to the typical parade fare of high school marching bands and local dignitaries waving to constituents, other popular entries this year included a Wells Fargo stagecoach, an all-day car show and a former Olympian serving as grand marshal.
Leora "Sam" Jones of Mount Olive, a three-time Olympian and East Carolina and North Carolina Hall of Famer, was the fifth leading scorer in handball in the 1984 summer Olympics. In 1987, she led the U.S. women's team to a gold medal at the Pan Am Games and in 1988, was the second leading scorer in the Olympic event.
"Remembering the Past, Yet Moving Forward" was this year's theme, said Mickey Jones, who helped coordinate the festivities.
"This is like a year in planning, trying to get things organized, calling around," he said.
Jones assisted with much of the behind-the-scenes preparation -- working with horses, motorcycles and clowns, as well as businesses supporting the effort.
"It's something that's worthwhile, for the people, for black people, for white folks, everybody," he said. "It means a higher calling because back in the day they didn't have anything like this. The only thing they knew about the history was what people told them."
Donna Player of Goldsboro took the opportunity to bring her two grandchildren -- A'Sjah Wooten, 7, and Niysan Swinson, 4, both of Raleigh.
"It means a lot," Ms. Player said. "It represents a lot to us because it's just remarkable to see the changes that have been made over the years. ...
"It just means to me, it's like a victory in a sense, to see what we accomplished, seeing different people. Having a black president, seeing blacks involved in everything, it's just a big movement."
Securing their position on Breazeale Avenue early, Leslie King of Goldsboro was accompanied by his mother and father, Virginia and Leslie King Sr., as well as his wife, Dawnette, and 5-year-old daughter, Shamiyah.
King said that although his child is still young, he realizes it will be important for her to have an understanding of Black history.
"We talk to (Shamiyah) about it," he said. "It means more probably to my mom and dad because we didn't grow up during racism and came here to support them."
"It means a lot to me because back then in my mama's day, they didn't have this," Virginia King said. "They went through a lot."
Having a parade, or any sort of celebration, so steeped in tradition of the culture also serves as a reminder to pass down the stories to future generations.
"As (Shamiyah) grows up, I'm going to tell her the different things that my mother and father went through," she said. "It's a great time in our life. I'm going to sit down and tell her what it's all about one day."
Reflecting on the occasion, Leslie Sr. espoused his very simple philosophy -- "Everybody is created equal," he said.
"To really get ahead in life, you have to know someone who's gone ahead of you," he said. "It's not about the color of your skin. Color doesn't have a barrier if you know somebody and you're willing to work.
"As far as the racist part, I think it's overrated of what it really is. I think sometimes racist is a word to admit failure, black or white. ... You can accomplish anything by hard work and dedication and education. That's what I try to pass on to my children."