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Slideshow: MLK Day Parade In Downtown Naples

The Collier County NAACP held its 21st annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parade Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. This year's theme is "Bridging the Racial Divide: Dr. King's Legacy of Inclusion and Diversity." 

While the Collier County School District held school Monday to make up for missed time during Hurricane Irma, the NAACP of Collier County held its annual MLK Day celebration. The group objected to the schools using that holiday to makeup time. But Collier NAACP President Vincent Keeys says a compromise was made and students were given additional instruction and materials related to the life and legacy of the civil rights leader. 

"Considering all the hatred and all of the comments and the fact that racism is alive and doing well in this country... we have a long, long way to go when it comes to bridging that gap and teaching the love that we need to have among the human race," says Keeys.

The Southwest Florida Chapter Of Showing Up For Racial Justice is one of many organizations to take part in the parade. Ellen Hemrick represents the group and says everybody, no matter the race, can learn from Martin Luther King. 

"Dr. Martin Luther King saved us all from some of the aspects of racism, but the civil rights movement isn’t over. All of us, especially white people, need to listen to his message," she says. "It’s a day when I, as a white person, can reflect on our nation’s very racist history and reenergize myself to commit to being an anti-racist in the future."

George Hamilton brought his wife to the event and says he feels it's critical to celebrate and honor the memory of MLK. 

"It’s very important for communities like this to have a public reconnection with the memory and ideals of Dr. King," he says. "Particularly for communities like Naples, which is one of the more affluential communities in the country, it’s easy to lose sight of what others are dealing with and how other people are dealing with people who are not perceived to be at the same level." 

Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk sees the event as an opportunity to ensure a better future for the county. 

"It’s very simple. We have a great community here. We want to continue to build on that. I know our residents want to build on that, and the only way we make things better in the future is to look at the types of information and points that Dr. King and others have brought up about working together and serving others," says Sheriff Rambosk. 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of King's assassination. Collier NAACP President Vincent Keeys acknowledges the strides that the country has made over the half-century, but he also believes there is still a lot of work left to be done. Keeys says the downtown Naples parade marched through some of the most expensive real estate in the country

"So we had a grand opportunity to display what Martin Luther King talked about and that is love and to provide candy to the kids and speak to the people who line the streets to see the Dr. Martin Luther King Day parade and celebration occur again here in Naples," says Keeys.