03/03/13 — Black history marching

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Black history marching

By Josh Ellerbrock
Published in News on March 3, 2013 1:50 AM

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Judge Ericka James, the first black woman to serve as a judge in North Carolina's Eighth Judicial District, acted as grand marshal for the parade. She rode in Wilber Shirley's white carriage.

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The Eastern Wayne High School marching band was one of the six marching bands to take part in the Black History Parade.

MOUNT OLIVE -- Malcolm X and Rosa Parks had a chance to speak during the Black History Month Parade on Saturday afternoon in downtown Mount Olive, but they declined to comment.

"Usually, they're pretty talkative," said Diane Williams of the Kids First Christian Development Center in Goldsboro. "But, they're shy right now."

Williams, a handful of her students and their parents sat bunched together in the back of a float made from a standard trailer and a few brightly colored posters.

Included in the group were a young Malcolm X, sporting his patented black-rimmed glasses, and a young Rosa Parks, dressed in a skirt suit reminiscent of the 1960s.

Mrs. Williams has been teaching the children of Kids First about "Legendary Heroes" in black history, from Harriet Tubman to President Barack Obama. The parade was the final project, and a few students dressed up as historical figures from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

"We're so very excited about today, and I know the kids are excited," Mrs. Williams said.

This was the first year the group has participated in the Black History Month Parade.

The parade, however, has promenaded down Mount Olive's Breazeale Avenue for the past five years, and every year it keeps growing. This year, more than 100 entries filled out a lineup of custom cars, carriages, clowns, motorcycles, horses, bands and dancers.

The parade was led by a few town officials including Mayor Ray McDonald Sr. and commissioners Gene Lee and Ray Thompson.

Intermingled throughout the parade, high school bands marched in tune to their school songs. Brogden Middle School, Eastern Wayne High School, Lowe's Grove Drumline, Pine Forest High School, Rosewood Middle and High schools and Southern Wayne High School provided a thumping beat to a celebration flanked by hundreds of excited attendees.

Motorcycle and car clubs interrupted the noise of drum lines and brass instruments with revved engines and awed attendees with brightly-colored paint jobs and oversized wheels.

Recently elected District 8 Judge Ericka James acted as grand marshal for the parade, riding in a white carriage led by Jimbo, a very large and slightly nervous 9-year-old horse.

Other marshals included County Commissioner Ed Cromartie and the Rev. Dr. William Barber of the N.C. NAACP.

Vicky Darden and Sheila Oates, the two women responsible for organizing the parade through the Unity Organization, rode on a blue and white sequined float with a stylized bridge on top.

Moving the parade from its regular scheduled day of Feb. 23 to March 2 because of last week's rain may have stopped some participants from showing up, but the parade still stretched at least a third of a mile from head to tail.

"I'm ready," Mrs. Oates said before the parade. "I've been dealing with this since October. The weather is good, and the people showed up. We're just going to celebrate."

A few floats, such as the aforementioned float of the Kids First Christian Development Center, participated to teach the younger generation of the black community's heritage and to celebrate what the black community has overcome. Included in that bunch was the float of the Wave of Glory Church in Goldsboro.

"(This parade) represents me and my ancestors," said Ambrose Archie of the Wave of Glory Church.

Archie and his wife, Ruby, helped to organize a float for some of the Sunday school students, a group known as the Diving Daughters of Praise. This is the second year they've participated in the parade. Like the Kids First float, their float also featured historical figures with a past, present and future motif.

"This is one way for our children to celebrate our people," Ruby said. "And to know that these people (pointing to names of historical black Americans on the float) who opened doors for us."