Last Friday evening, I rode in a parade through the streets of downtown Waterloo. I saw some of you along the route: Lee Jensen and all the Prescotts, Kurt Kaliban, and Grant and Klara Hornung. It was a beautiful early summer evening, a great night for a parade.
It was, of course, the My Waterloo Days parade. I rode in a black Toyota convertible with Frieda and Anna Mae Weems, invited to join them as a board member of the Cedar Valley Civil Rights Peace Walk Memorial Committee. This committee exists to promote the development of a Peace Walk memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington Park, to commemorate Dr. King’s visit to Waterloo in 1959 and to serve as a symbol of our community’s commitment to peace in the midst of an often fragmented and divisive society.
Thousands of Waterloo’s residents lined the streets of the parade route, watching and waving and cheering, and it was a thrill for us in the car, having the advantage of moving among all of them, to appreciate the scope and diversity of the crowd. We have a beautiful city! We are an emblem, a case in point, of the melting pot that is our nation. The parade brought together, side-by-side, rich and poor, mayors and street people, young children and old men, African-Americans and Bosnians and Africans and Hispanics and European-Americans. For a few moments, we existed, not in our isolated and separated neighborhoods and working places, but together, all of us sharing a parade, all of us sharing this beautiful summer evening.
It was a glimpse of what we are, as a community, as a people, a glimpse that convinces me all the more of the appropriate purpose of a memorial, a peace memorial to Martin Luther King, and of the honor it would be to have it here, in our neighborhood. Don Damon said he saw me that night in a TV report about the parade. He scolded me because I wasn’t smiling. Sorry, Don! But I am smiling now as I think about that parade and about all the people, all God’s beautiful children, I saw along the way …