|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Tuesday, 13 December 2011 00:00|
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holds a special place in the American historical consciousness. In the years since the civil rights leader was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968, people have found ways to honor his memory and his message, even if the dream he spoke of is still some ways off from being realized.
Towns have named streets and highways for him. King even recently had a new monument unveiled in his likeness in Washington, D.C.
Every January since 1986, a day is set aside as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Even though Arizona had its own issues with recognizing the day until into the 1990s, a local Camp Verde boy is doing his part to make Camp Verde the first municipality in the Verde Valley to hold a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade down Main Street.
Chandler Plante, 6, is a bright young boy, not to mention a particularly sharp dresser for a first-grader.
For a year, Chandler has wanted to find some way to celebrate the holiday. This January, his plans will be realized with a march down Main Street.
“In other [cities] they do it,” Chandler said. “But here they don’t, and I’d like to get one going.”
Chandler started out on his quest collecting signatures from town residents in support of a parade.
After collecting more than 60, Chandler went before the Camp Verde Town Council last month and presented the signatures, along with a poster he made about King to the town’s elected leaders, asking for their permission to let the event take place.
“This is a young man who has some ambition,” Mayor Bob Burnside said.
The council directed the town staff to help make the march a reality, making sure everything was done right and coordinated with the Camp Verde Marshal’s Office.
“He came up with this on his own,” said Robert Plante, Chandler’s father. “He just feels that Camp Verde has a need to recognize the day.”
Chandler, with the help of his family, is also trying to organize a service project to coincide with the day.
“We’re going to try to pick up trash somewhere,” said Jan Plante, Chandler’s mother. “But the town is actually pretty clean.”
Raking leaves up may be a viable alternative, but nothing has been yet set in stone.
The march isn’t actually going to close the street; it will be conducted down the sidewalks from roughly the fork in Main Street down to the Calvary Chapel area.
The event will be held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day itself, Monday, Jan. 16, at noon.
Now Chandler just wants to get as many people in the community involved as possible.
Robert Plante said he and his son met with Camp Verde Unified School District Superintendent Dan Brown to try and get some support from the schools.
Plante said the teachers will be working an in-service day Jan. 16, but Brown said they would be free to go at the lunch hour to support Chandler’s efforts to honor King.
Plante also said he’s still looking for other organizations in the community to participate.
This isn’t the first time Chandler has been actively involved in organizing a civic project. Early in the year, he made a large “Get Well Soon” card filled with as many signatures and notes as he could find and had it sent to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords [D-District 8], who had been shot in the head near Tucson in January.
Instead of signatures, this time Chandler wants as many people who are able to come out to join him next month in honor of one of his heroes.
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