Martin Luther King Parade moves to Ocean Boulevard

Martin Luther King Parade moves to Ocean Boulevard

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The Martin Luther King Day parade took over Ocean Boulevard Monday afternoon, but it didn't go through the Booker T. Washington neighborhood as it had in the past.

The MLK Day parade used to start at Robert Grissom Parkway, go on to 21st Avenue North and then continue on to Carver Street and the surrounding Booker T. Washington community, a historically black neighborhood in Myrtle Beach.

One side of 21st Avenue North was open to traffic during the parade in the past.

However, the police department now has the water-filled barricades that were purchased last year for Bikefest, which Myrtle Beach Police Lieutenant Joey Crosby said the department would've been required to use this year on 21st Avenue North as a barrier between the parade and traffic, a process he calls labor intensive.

The other option would've been to close 21st Avenue North altogether, but he said that would've presented more issues because it's a main thoroughfare.

The process of closing Ocean Boulevard between 24th Avenue North and 9th Avenue North was easier because police only needed to put up the steel barricades.

Plus, Lt. Crosby said the parade has grown each year. This year, multiple military marching bands participated.

"It would allow more room for the parade to grow in the future years and it also would allow for maybe those who were coming to see the parade, efficient parking and things such as restrooms, thing such as that were already in place down along Ocean Boulevard," Lt. Crosby said.

Lt. Crosby and Bennie Swans, the parade organizer and chairman of the Carolina African American Heritage Foundation, said they expect to have the parade on Ocean Boulevard again next year.

Swans said there has been a renewed effort to improve and heal race relations especially in the past year after the tragedy in Charleston. The parade symbolizes progress to him.

"There was a time when African Americans couldn't come on this beach, were not welcome on this beach," Swans said. "And this day, all persons are welcome on the beach. That is an indication of progress."

However, some people in the Booker T. Washington community are upset about losing what they thought of as their neighborhood's parade.

"The whole community is now wondering what happened to the Martin Luther King parade," said Frank Nesbitt. "Every year, we look forward to the parade. It's short and sweet, but it's to the point."

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