Tampa tackles injustices of the past, celebrates Dr. King’s message of moving forward

The streets of Tampa were filled with performers and paradegoers Monday in celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The joyous day of remembrance was shadowed for some who find it hard to ignore the city's painful history.

Lost African American cemeteries are being discovered across the Bay Area; reminders of the injustice Dr. King dreamed our country would one day overcome.

Tampa's 31st annual MLK Day parade marched from Cuscaden Park to Middleton High School, featuring 175 units, including dozens of marching bands and floats.

"It makes me very, very happy, realizing what Doctor King did for us, how this guy was a martyr and how he died so that we could have the freedom that we have," said Robert Scott, the director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade Foundation. "He was just the epitome of the spirit of growth and change in America."

The celebration did not completely overshadow the continuing search for lost African American cemeteries. By the end of 2019, hundreds of forgotten graves had been discovered, connected to the old Zion and Ridgewood Cemeteries. Most of them were the victims of 20th Century development.

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Linda Adejumo knows the pain of this situation first-hand.

"My grandmother was buried in the cemetery on...MLK [Boulevard] and 22nd Street and her grave is one of those sites that's missing," Adejumo said.

Archeologists are expected to continue searching for more graves in at least two or three other locations.

"That part of our history was covered and it was hidden, but the truth always seems to reveal itself and because we know where our history lies, not we can make the past so much brighter," said Pavonne Scott, whose father helped organize the parade.

With that in mind, Adejump believes some of Dr. King's lessons can apply to this situation.

"It's very important to remember but it's most important to pass the dream, pass our history along to our young people," she said. "It is upsetting but I'm glad at least something is being done now and there's being some attention being brought to it that our history is just not totally being lost."