Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS-- For 26 years, the city of New Orleans has formally celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year's theme is 'United in Times of Challenge.'
'His message was really one of unity, one of people coming together -- to find the better angels among us,' said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. 'To find a way for everybody to come together around common ground and common purpose.'
However, one local civil rights leader says his organization is having trouble finding that common ground.
'It's important that when you have an MLK program, it's important you have civil rights organizations involved,' said Danatus King, president of the New Orleans branch of the NAACP.
The civil rights organization usually participates in the city's MLK march. This year, for the first time, King requested that the NAACP also be included in the ceremony prior to the march.
The request was denied.
'When you have an organization, the largest and oldest civil rights organization -- an organization that worked hand in hand with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King -- and they are not only overlooked, but they are denied participation, it's not only an insult, but a disrespect,' King said.
This is not the first time the city and the local NAACP have clashed. In November, the civil rights group was barred from entering Gallier Hall during a criminal justice press conference.
However, the commission organizing the city's MLK celebration said the NAACP's request came too late for them to be included in the opening ceremony. They added the group was still welcome at the march.
'This year he wanted to insist on being in the program and the program was already put together. He came at the last minute,' said Rev. Norwood Thompson, chairman of the MLK Celebration Commission. 'Hopefully, next year, we can have much more inclusiveness of everybody.'
However, King said the NAACP would likely not participate in the march, creating a divide on a holiday honoring a man who gave his life to bring people together.
According to the city, the march starts at the entrance of Armstrong Park at N. Rampart and St. Anne. It goes down N. Rampart towards downtown. N Rampart turns into Oretha Castle Haley at Calliope. The parade continues down OC Haley and makes a right turn on MLK Blvd. It goes up MLK to S. Claiborne ends at MLK Monument on S. Claiborne and Felicity.