For nine-year-old Isaiah Reese Andrews, marching in today’s parade took on a special meaning. For Isaiah it was the first time he had a clear understanding of what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday actually represents. While in the past he has had a very limited idea, this year was different.
Isaiah is my nephew and I have never taken him on any of my assignments. However, when I mentioned I was covering the parade he asked if he could come. I was happy to oblige. This morning I had a deep conversation with my nephew about the people he was about to meet. I spoke to him about how he would be meeting people like Hubert Smith. A person who personally and directly grew up in Knoxville experiencing racial segregation. We spoke at the breakfast table about how important Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in creating peaceful demonstrations that created change.
We also spoke about civil rights activists from Knoxville. We spoke about Avon Rollins and how he marched with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We spoke about how Avon Rollins would be in downtown Knoxville picketing peacefully to end racial discrimination. I wanted him to understand that not only was this a national issue but a local issue as well.
For me personally, one of the most poignant moments of the parade, was when Hubert Smith suggested that everybody lock and hold hands in the same fashion and in the respectful memory of the way Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had done in his time. It was a moment when man who has lived through segregation was standing arm in arm next to a child who was just starting to understand it. It truly showed how far we have come to the society in just one generation.