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Saturday, January 22, 2011

‘Carry on the legacy:' Marchers in Kingsport celebrate, Remember Dr. King

‘We want people to rejoice in all the legacy (King) left for us, and the actual push is to become brothers and sisters.’

— Pastor Ronnie Collins



KINGSPORT — Martin Luther King Jr. Day should not be a day off, but rather a day on — to do good in the community and to help carry on the legacy of the slain civil rights leader.

Pastor Ronnie Collins gave this message during the annual MLK Day parade in downtown Kingsport on Monday, where this year’s theme was “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not a Day Off.”

“Remember the legacy of Dr. King, all that he stood for and the great works that he did. Celebrate his 82nd birthday, the national holiday. And the ‘act’ part is to do something. Do something in the community — an act of kindness or love or help someone less fortunate,” Collins said. “It’s not a day off, but it really should be a day on and doing good to carry on the legacy.”

Click here to see a slideshow of the 2011 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. March through downtown Kingsport.

More than 70 people walked in Monday’s parade, which stretched from East Sevier Avenue to Kingsport’s City Hall. The event drew as many young people and children as adults and seniors, with about half of the participants being Caucasian. Many people carried signs and banners with messages of “Justice, Equity, Compassion for All” and “I Stand on the Side of Love.”

“We want people to rejoice in all the legacy (King) left for us, and the actual push is to become brothers and sisters,” Collins said.

Sullivan County Schools elected to be in session Monday to make up one of the 11 days schools have missed this year due to the weather. Kingsport City Schools, which have missed three days this year due to the weather, were not in session Monday.

Collins said he found it disturbing some school systems elected to be open on MLK Day.

“It sends the wrong message to our youth,” Collins said. “Our goal is to get young people acclimated to what is happening, why (the holiday) is important and the crux of it. (Schools being open) sends a message that the holiday is not important. I know they have to make (the day) up, but today is probably not the best day.”

Collins said he hopes school systems that were in session on Monday offered programs or assemblies on Martin Luther King Jr.

During Monday’s parade, three people brought their canine friends with them to walk, while Jenny Rogers of Kingsport brought several of her Djembes (drums) and maracas for the participants to play during the event.

Rogers, a former worship director at First Broad Street United Methodist Church, said she started the Drum Circle Connection as a form of outreach to the community, using drums to help kids communicate and build teams together.

In recent years, the cold winter weather has kept some people from turning out and resulted in small turnouts for the MLK Day parade. This year, however, more people showed up with the warmer weather.

“Our numbers always increase when the weather is good. Our prayers have always been each year to have reasonable weather. After the last couple of weeks, we couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Collins said.

Margaret Smith, who lives on Myrtle Street and attends every year, brought her children down to walk in the parade.

“I like for all of us to get together, and it’s a real nice turnout. Much better than last year; I believe so,” she said.

A special treat this holiday was an afternoon dinner for the community, held in the Riverview Community Room.  Turkey and dressing, fried chicken, vegetables, and cakes and pies were the order of the day, as residents who had just taken part in the the march downtown, sat down to fellowship with each other, and get caught up on the excitement of the day.   Entertainment was provided by the New Vision Youth in the form of song, and the singing was well received by those eating.

Click here to see a slideshow from the Community Dinner on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2011, held at the Riverview Community Center.

During the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day program at the Central Baptist Church, former Kingsport mayor Jeanette Blazier told an enthusiastic audience the city has made many strides since that fateful day in 1994, when 8 year old Jalissa Ferguson was killed by a drug dealer's bullet.

"I'll never forget the tears of anguish as I heard folks in Riverview telling them, they'd had enough of the crime ruining the neighborhood," she said.  "You went from being the worst crime neighborhood in the city, to the safest neighborhood."

That last part, produced a rousing show of applause from an approving crowd.

Click here to see a slideshow of the 2011 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Program held at the Central Baptist Church.

Mrs. Blazier also talked about how the revitalization of the neighborhood has produced positive results such as the HOPE VI homes, and the renovated V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex.  "One of the most exciting moments during the dedication in September," she remembered, "was the unveiling of the historic marker from the Tennessee Historical Commission.  That marker placed the wonderful heritage of Douglass High School on a state and national map of history, and will forever mark the school's place in the state archives."

(EDITOR'S NOTE:  We were able to shoots some panoramic pictures inside the santuary at Central while Mayor Blazier was speaking. 

Click here to see panoramic pictures of the santuary of the Central Baptist Church during former Mayor Blazier's address.

You may have to turn your head to see the panorama shots.. they work better if they're printed off, then displayed tilted).

One highlight of the event at the church, was a presentation made to the new residents of the Riverview Place homes, which replaced the historic Riverview Apartments.  Each head of the household in the new homes was presented with a new Bible, to guide their new lives by.

The program at Central was sponsored by the Greater Kingsport Ministerial Alliance.

Later, at the annual Candlelight Vigil, sponsored by the New Vision Youth and the Kingsport Parks and Recreation's Community Services Division, candles were lit to honor many of the Riverview Community's people, events, history and fiture.  Candles were lit for the new HOPE VI homes at Riverview Place, the seniors of the community, the New Vision Youth, Parks and Crecreation, the new V.O. Dobbins, Sr. Complex, Kingsport City Government, the Kingsport Board of Education, and many family and loved ones still with us and those gone, but not forgotten.

Click here to see a slideshow of the 2011 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Candlelight Vigil, held at the V.O. Dobbins, Sr. Complex.

The lighting ceremony was held in the parking lot of the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex, and capped off Riverview and Kingsport's wonderful celebration and tribute to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.