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MLK Event In Beacon Includes Pete Seeger Inspired Parade

One was a folk musician from the Northeast. The other was a man of God from Georgia. But Pete Seeger and Martin Luther King were celebrated together for their commitment to social justice today at the second annual Pete Seeger/Southern Dutchess Coalition Community Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. parade.

The parade, which began as the vision of late legendary folk musician and Beacon resident Pete Seeger, has been added to a now 37-year tradition – the Southern Dutchess Coalition’s Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration. Barbra Baker-Baylor is with the coalition, an alliance of churches, civic groups, and individuals begun by her mother. She says the parade will be a staple of the annual celebration.

“He exemplified the thing about unity, about everybody, everybody, no matter who you are, what’s your religion, what’s your sex, your, whatever, he said, we all are here together and it just... To add that to the Martin Luther King thing, it’s just a, it’s a no brainer. It just fits right in,” says Baker-Taylor. “So now we have to give honor to him because you know he died a week after the parade last year.”

R.J. Storm, who built Seeger’s blonde touring banjo, says Seeger did not feel well enough to participate in last year’s parade. Storm recalls that he and Dan Einbender went to Seeger’s house to tell him of the parade’s success.

“Pete, we were at the parade. We wanted to tell you, your idea, it was nice. And he didn’t think many people would show up because it was cold,” says Storm. “‘Did anybody show up besides you and Dan?’ Oh just a couple thousand people. And he says, and he snapped up and he says, ‘Did you sing Oh, Wallace?’ Oh yeah, we sure did, buddy. ‘That’s great.’ And he was so happy so we gave him the news that it was a success. So I guess the best think any of us can do is to carry it on.”

“Oh, Wallace” refers to then Alabama Governor George Wallace, who sought to preserve segregation.

Musician David Bernz, who with his son has a music store in Beacon, was a producer for Seeger.

“And it was just last year that Pete had the idea that instead of just celebrating inside the church why not have a march where young people especially could know what it’s like to sing and march at the same time for something important,” says Bernz. “And we’re trying to carry on that legacy this year.”

Seeger founded environmental group Clearwater. Clearwater Music Director and Events Coordinator Linda Richards says the songs for the parade are freedom songs, songs sung in the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama marches in 1965 as part of the voting rights movement.

“This is really for us to get out of the house on Martin Luther King Day and instead of going shopping, of using it as a day off, to really go out and feel what it was all about,” says Richards. “And a lot of it is through music because the music moves you. And the music touches your intellect and your emotions.”

Songs like “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “We Shall Overcome.” Beacon City Councilman Ali Muhammad is the first African-American male and Muslim on the city council. He says the day signifies unity.

“Diversity amongst others. One race, the human race. So we’ve been saying and it’s something that we have to continue to say, the fight continues, the push continues, but we have made progress, and we have to do that,” says Muhammad. “And today we celebrate, but tomorrow we go back to work to move forward.”

Here’s Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney.

“Well it’s important that we remember that the things Martin Luther King fought for are still issues that we need to care about,” says Maloney. “And I took my little girls to see Selma last night and we spent a bunch of time talking about what’s been achieved and what hasn’t been. We’re still fighting to rebuild the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court’s action last year. That was the legislation that they were getting beat up over on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. So we still have bridges to cross. We have bridges to cross in America until everyone is treated equally before the law. And that’s what we need to remember today.”

Maloney was at the front of the parade with other elected officials, including Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, state Senator Sue Serino, and Beacon Mayor Randy Casale.

Beacon resident Patricia Taylor says this year’s parade brought out more people than last year’s, including more children. And she says the following can be said of both King and Seeger.

“To shed more light on the things that was going on in the world was great for him to do that.”

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