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Friday, January 13, 2023

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 2023 Holiday Events in Kingsport


"I have decided to stick with love.  Hate is too great a burden to bear" - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., SCLC conference in Atlanta, 1967

Those words from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ring true today, 55 years after the famed civil rights leader was shot to death 500 miles on the other side of Tennessee from Kingsport.

The first Dr. King parade in Kingsport in 1968 was to remember and commemorate his teachings of non-violence only days after he was assassinated in Memphis.  Since 1986 and once a year since, people from all walks of life have gathered with community leaders to walk in Kingsport to honor Dr. King's legacy.  Bad weather postponed last year's Holiday commemoration, but this year's is scheduled for Monday, January 16th.

"Marching feet announce that time has come for a given idea.  When the idea is a sound one, the cause is a just one, and the demonstration a righteous one, change will be forthcoming."  "Non-violence: The Only Road to Freedom" -  essay by Dr. King, 1966

The annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Parade is scheduled for downtown Kingsport on Monday.  The yearly theme has always been "The End of Racism can come through the Love of Christ," but this year, there is an urgency to the teachings of Dr. King, says Parade Organizer Bishop Ronnie Collins.  With all the shootings and killings in America in the past year, he says "this year's theme is 'In 2023, Choose to Love and Not to Hate.'"  

"There's a reason why the word 'unity' is part of the word 'community,'" says Bishop Collins.  "It all comes from love, love for our city, love for our neighbor, love for those less fortunate and above all, the love for Christ.  We have got to get back to that love."  

The parade will assemble at 11:15 AM on Monday at the corner of East Center Street and East Sevier Avenue in Kingsport.  The event begins promptly at noon, proceeding down Center Street to the old city hall at Center and Shelby Streets.  Everyone is invited to march.

"Bring your car, your float, your bicycle, your feet and most importantly your spirit," says Bishop Collins.  "The parade is open to anybody who believes in the Love of Christ and the Love of Community with inclusion, diversity, equality and equity, as Dr. King believed in."

"I heard the late civil rights icon Representative John Lewis of Georgia once say 'we may have come here in different ships, but we're in the same boat now,'" Bishop Collins says.  "Only Dr. King's teachings can bring us back to that one togetherness of spirit that we need."

The parade is sponsored by the Tennessee/Virginia Fellowship Against Racism (TVFAR) and the East Tennessee Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship.


"I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education, and culture for their minds and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits" - Dr. King acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, 1964

Immediately after the parade on Monday, the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Luncheon will be held at 1 PM in the Riverview Community Room on Wheatley Street in Kingsport, located beside the pickle ball courts and Head Start.  Because of the weather and Covid, last year's was a drive-through event, but this year will be the customary dinner inside.  "Because the King Day holiday is a day of service in communities," says organizer Johnnie Mae Swagerty, "awards will be presented to those who have made a difference in helping people in the past year.  It's a prelude to the celebration of Black History Month in February."

On the menu this year is barbeque and chips from Broad Street Barbeque in Kingsport, with water provided by Healthy Kingsport.  The luncheon is free of charge.

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Luncheon is sponsored by the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, the New Vision Youth/South Central Kingsport Community Development, Inc., Kingsport Parks and Recreation and KHRA.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that" - "Loving Your Enemies" sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama 1957

This year's Candlelight Vigil in Dr. King's memory will be held at the Shiloh Baptist Church, 712 East Sevier Avenue in Kingsport at 6 PM Monday night.  The lighting of candles has become a tradition that wraps up the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday every year in Kingsport and this year is no different.  "Community leaders will light individual candles in honor of people, programs, organizations and agencies who have shared the benevolence that Dr. King always preached about," Swagerty says.  The public is invited and is free of charge.

The event is sponsored by the New Vision Youth group and the Shiloh Baptist Church.

Bishop Collins says, the march, the luncheon and the Candlelight Vigil are where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dreams for society still live.  But they live in our hearts every day of the year.