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Manatee celebrates MLK with parade; see the photo galleries


With stereo speakers blasting in a packed gymnasium, young kids strutted their stuff. One even moonwalked.

They all took the stage at Palmetto Youth Center as a part of weekend celebration honoring the life and legacy of a peaceful civil rights activist.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Extravaganza has been taking place for about 10 years and each year youth groups express themselves in singing and dancing performances.

“They’ve taken ownership of this. They look forward to this every year,” said Chris Luckowiak, the center’s executive director.

The extravaganza not only gives the youth a venue to express themselves, but also a place to gather after the annual parade that begins and ends at Lincoln Middle School, he said.

“You have 500 kids running around here after the parade. Now they have a place to go,” he said. “It’s packed wall to wall in there.”

While the extravaganza has become a tradition for many families, it’s also about reflection, said Jotasia Walker, 17, of Palmetto.

“Today means a lot because Martin Luther King Jr. did a lot — not just for African American people, but for everyone to become one,” she said.

Each year there are four categories in which church, schools and clubs can sponsor groups of kids to perform in the competition in categories ranging from praise dance to step.

There were five groups that performed this year, all of which won cash prizes.

Seven-year-old De’Vion Cummings, of Palmetto, brought down the house when he donned a white glove and black-sequin jacket to moonwalk to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

“Because he’s young, he’s just starting to see what Martin Luther King Jr. is good for, and now he has the freedom to dance,” said Natasha Cummings, shortly after her son finished performing.

Walker said she used to dance in the competition when she was younger, but now she enjoys watching the younger children.

“People are catching on to what we were doing then, and now they’re doing it,” she said, smiling.

Beth Burger, Herald Staff Writer, can be reached at 745-7919.

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