A day of reflection and gratitude: Laurelton celebrates Memorial Day during 35th annual parade

Hundreds of local residents marched to support fallen soldiers during Laurelton’s 35th Annual Memorial Day Parade.
Photo by Athena Dawson

Hundreds of Laurelton residents marched in a Memorial Day parade honoring the sacrifice of fallen veterans on Monday, May 27. 

Residents gathered early in the morning on Memorial Day for the 35th annual Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony.

Thirty-nine organizations marched in the parade, including multiple Divine 9 sororities and fraternities, local military organizations, civic groups and Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops.

The parade started at Francis Lewis Boulevard and ended at the Veterans Memorial Triangle at 225th Street and Northern Conduit Avenue. The New York Alliance Drumlines led the pace with upbeat drumming while community members stood outside of their homes, waving American flags and cheering the procession on.  

NYPD Explorers Post 2241 marches in the Laurelton Memorial Day Parade. Photo by Athena Dawson
Local Girl Scout troops are all smiles during the parade procession. Photo by Athena Dawson
Members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. march in the procession. Photo by Athena Dawson

Julian Snype, President of the Federated Blocks of Laurelton and one of the event organizers, explained that the parade brings the community together every year. “It’s an opportunity to remember and honor those who have given their lives. Also, we have to talk about our history, and our history isn’t in the books that are given in school,” he said. “He added that veterans’ history is Black history and explained the importance of educating people on forgotten Black history. “My dad is a World War II vet. He turns 100 next month… a lot of black men and women joined the service and fought, “he said. 

The Federated Blocks of Laurelton was one of many event organizers for the annual Memorial Day Parade. Photo by Athena Dawson

Alongside the procession, retired marine Sgt. Lee Blackmon stood solemnly in his full-dress blue uniform, saluting those who passed by. “We’re honoring the dead. I think it’s important for everyone to understand the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. This is a day where we take time and pay our respects to family members and those who sacrificed their lives for this day to be possible,” he said.

Retired marine veteran Sgt. Lee Blackmon salutes members of the procession. Photo by Athena Dawson

After the procession made its way to the Veterans Memorial, a group of local elected officials were there to greet the organizers and participants. Council Members Selvena Brooks Powers (D-31), and Nantasha Willaims(D-28), as well as Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman(D-29) and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks(D-5), and public advocate Jumanee Williams were in attendance. Additionally, the event brought all sides of the political spectrum, as Meek’s republican challenger, Paul King, and Hydman’s challenger, Dwayne Moore, were also in attendance.

VFW Post members honor fallen soldiers with a symbolic wreath-laying ceremony. Photo by Athena Dawson
Sgt. Major Jackie Wilson led the procession to the Veterans Memorial Triangle. Photo by Athena Dawson

At the memorial, members of local VFW posts held a ceremony honoring fallen soldiers. The ceremony started with greetings from parade chairman Fritz Casimir. Included in the ceremony was a flag folding ceremony to honor the patriots who have passed fighting in foreign wars. Citations were also given to two foreign war veterans who will be turning 100 years old in the coming months. Many veterans participated in a symbolic wreath-laying ceremony at the headstone located at the Veteran’s Memorial Triangle. 

Sgt. Major Jackie Wilson gifts a folded American Flag to one of the veterans honored at the ceremony. Photo by Athena Dawson

During the solemn ceremony, a few of the local elected officials spoke about the importance of remembering veterans who have perished. 

“This is the greatest country that this planet has ever seen,” said Meeks. “In each and every war, people decided to give their lives for freedom. Individuals have lost their lives and limbs, have given their heart and their souls, and we are here today to say thank you.” Meeks added.

Many elected officials echoed Meeks’ views. Public Advocate Williams said it was important to honor Black veterans and soldiers who fought in wars while duly fighting for their rights during the times of segregation and racial injustice. “Black folks have been fighting for this country with all their heart and soul, even when this country was not explicitly or implicitly fighting for them,” he said. 

The parade was sponsored by the Laurelton Lions Club, Federated Blocks of Laurelton, Garden Club of Laurelton, American Legion Post 1946, V.F.W. Post 5298, and the Concerned Citizens of Laurelton.