But Sunday’s parade is not just entertainment; it is the agency’s largest fundraiser.
Though the parade route moved in 2005 from the historic Ville neighborhood to downtown St. Louis, Sara Lahman, CEO at Annie Malone, said the parade is what is keeping the agency alive.
“We really wanted to encourage people to bring their entire family out again and let’s celebrate what we are doing as a community,” Lahman said. “A lot of our programs are focusing on keeping families together, and just bringing every child into foster care is not the answer.”
The first May Day Parade was held in 1910, and it is now the country’s second-largest African American parade.
“The parade was a celebration,” Lahman said. “The parade was saying, 'Hey, everybody in the community come together and look what Annie Malone is doing for the children of the community,' and we’ve kind of lost that way over the past few years.”
The procession is tradition in St. Louis’ black community. Due to the decline in corporate sponsorships, Vice President of Development and External Affairs Patricia Washington said the parade needs the support of the community now more than ever.
“As corporations become more specific about the things they’ll fund, it becomes harder to get the kind of corporate support that we have enjoyed in the past,” Washington said.
Annie Turnbo Malone was an African American entrepreneur who turned her St. Louis hair care product company into a multi-million-dollar empire.
In 1888, a group of St. Louis women opened the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home to house homeless black children. From 1919 to 1949, Malone served as the president of the orphanage’s board of directors. And it was because of her charitable gifts throughout the years that the center changed its name to Annie Malone Children’s Home.
Over the decades, the home expanded its services to reflect the needs of the community. Thus the name change in 1993 to Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center.
The center now serves children with extreme behavioral and mental health issues as well as housing children as an alternative to foster care.
“I think where we were is where we are going,” Lahman said. “We are coming into more of where the community needs us, and how we compliment that is really tackling some of that mental health need and the residential services and the therapeutic foster care.”
This year's parade theme is on reuniting families and rebuilding the community. The festival is now the Annie Malone Family Reunion Weekend, with the inclusion of a Motown musical revue Friday and a community day in the Ville featuring a barbecue competition on Saturday.
Orvin Kimbrough, CEO of Midwest BankCentre, is the parade grand marshal.
If You Go:
- Sunday, May 19
- 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
- Kiener Plaza Park, 500 Chestnut St., St. Louis
Andrea Y. Henderson is part of the public-radio collaborative Sharing America, covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Hartford, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Portland, Oregon. Follow Andrea at @drebjournalist.
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