EAST CHICAGO | Floats, decorated cars and performance groups were among the roughly 50 entries that lined up Saturday on Indiana Harbor Drive from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to Dickey Road to take part in a parade commemorating June as Black Music Month.

The parade was the sixth annual event hosted by the I Too Sing America Organization of NWI Inc.

Stacy Winfield founded the nonprofit organization that works to create awareness about Black Music Month.

"Our African-American heritage starts off in gospel," Winfield said. "It's very important that each culture know their history."

The South Shore Drill Team of Chicago, the Michigan City Soul Steppers, the McKinley Boys Drumline of Gary and the C.U.T. Tumbling Team from Chicago were some of the participants that performed for parade watchers.

Dressed in black uniforms with either neon green or pink trim, the South Shore Drill Team practiced its dance moves and twirled its bright flags while waiting for the parade to start just after noon.

Airiss Duke, 22, was among the Michigan City Soul Steppers group members who practiced on percussion instruments as they prepared for the march.

He said the parade allowed the members to express their different musical styles.

"We all make up our own music," Duke said. "We don't read music. We play our own."

Kevin Ester, of Chicago, accompanied the McKinley Boys Drumline that included his son and younger brother.

He believes it is wise to recognize Black Music Month and encourage musical involvement.

"All around the world, you notice that they're cutting out a lot of the music departments in schools, and it's especially important in the inner city schools ... because you need every avenue open to keep kids out of trouble and off the streets," Ester said.

The I Too Sing America Organization of NWI Inc. awards three $500 scholarships annually to Northwest Indiana students.

This year's three recipients rode along in the parade and are recent graduates of the Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Gary: Ryan Bennett, of Gary; Danielle Bradley, of East Chicago; and Brooklyn Brown, of Hammond.

Bradley, who plans to attend Indiana State University and pursue a career as a dermatologist, said she earned the scholarship by completing an essay on what type of music has had the greatest influence. She chose spiritual music.

"It was basically like a way for African-Americans to talk to God," Bradley said.

A picnic was to take place when the parade met its destination in Washington Park.

Pamela Jones, of East Chicago, watched the parade from the sidewalk and said she likes it because of "the unity of the city coming together for just that one day."

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