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Putting aside the drama: Houston's dueling Martin Luther King Day parades both draw crowds

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Black Heritage Society of Houston Original MLK Parade members of crowd holding signs January 2014
Black Heritage Society "Original" MLK Parade members show their support for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. SEIUTX/Twitter
MLK Grande Parade in Midtown marching band January 2014
MLK Grande Parade marching bands in Midtown on Monday. JohnnyBravo1/Twitter
Black Heritage Society of Houston Original MLK Parade members of crowd holding signs January 2014
MLK Grande Parade in Midtown marching band January 2014

Houston's unique Martin Luther King Day tradition of multiple competing parades continues.

The Black Heritage Society's 36th Annual "Original" MLK Birthday Parade and the 20th Annual MLK Grande Parade — dueling parades celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — drew thousands of spectators Monday.

The battling parades are the result of a disagreement in the mid-1990s over which group should hold the parade, ending with the Grande Parade choosing to host its own event separately. The divide between the groups remains, but both parades serve to honor the incredible legacy of the civil rights activist. 

The Black Heritage Society's parade, which took place from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., ran from from Minute Maid Park to the MacGregor neighborhood in South Houston. The parade was followed by a community festival at Discovery Green.

According to Sylvester Brown, project manager at the Black Heritage Society, the society's parade was initially commissioned 30 years ago by Martin Luther King, Sr. "Daddy King served as our first grand marshal. He commissioned our organization to hold a birthday parade in honor of his son January 21, 1978 and we've held that parade ever since then," he tells KTRH News Radio.

 The divide between the groups remains, but both parades serve to honor the incredible legacy of the civil rights activist. 

The competing Grande Parade ran from noon to 2 p.m., heading north down San Jacinto St. at Elgin St. and extending to Webster St.

Organizer Charles Stamps notes that the Grande Parade featured "more than 300 culturally diverse performing groups" and was "led by the University of Houston marching band, Texas Southern marching band and Texas A&M Prairie View marching band."

Both parades mark the end of a weekend of festivities that included competing children's parades, as well as other events like Black Hertitage Society's community health fair and youth concert and Grande Parade's "Battle of the Bands" competition.

In spite of the years-long disagreement the groups have had with one another — now particularly over who gets to the prime downtown route for their parade — both parades successfully bring thousands of community members together to honor the mission of Dr. King.

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