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Tuesday, January 9, 2024

MLK Day Events in Kingsport for 2024


This month, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have celebrated his 95th birthday.  On Monday, January 15th, the city of Kingsport will come together to celebrate his legacy of equality, nonviolence and justice and it all begins with the annual MLK Day parade downtown.

This year, the parade route is different.  Instead of a parade on four-lane East Center Street, the decision was made to move to a more secure street.  The parade will begin promptly at 12 Noon at the intersection of East Sullivan Street and East Center Street, then continue on the two-lane Sullivan Street, through the Cherokee Street intersection, ending in the new Kingsport city hall parking lot at the Church Circle.  The Sullivan Street parade route walk time will now be about 15 to 17 minutes, and it's about a thousand feet shorter than the Center Street route that ended at the old city hall building.

"East Sullivan Street is a much safer platform," says parade organizer Bishop Ronnie Collins with the Tennessee Virginia Fellowship Against Racism.  "Based on safety and security, many traditional parade routes around the country are changing because of incidents of vehicles hitting pedestrians.  On Center Street, we were always walking along with cars and trucks going by.  Luckily, none were going very fast, but since Center Street could not be closed down completely except in an emergency and for the safety of participants, it was thought best to move the parade to Sullivan Street, which is a more secure street."

Parade participants are asked to assemble at 11:15 AM in the parking lot of the Preaching Christ Church, 707 East Sullivan Street, Kingsport.  The parade continues the ongoing message of past parades.  "That message is 'the answer to racism is the Love of Christ,'" says Bishop Collins.  "This year's theme is 'Show Love More in 2024.'  The object is to continue to work together for love, harmony and collaboration during this election year in our community and country."

Charles Maxwell of American Tours and Charters will furnish a free ride for those parade participants who need to get from the end of the parade to the luncheon that follows.  Speaking of that, the day's activities continue at 1 PM with the annual MLK New Vision Youth Group/South Central Community Unity Luncheon in the Riverview Community Room.  It's located on Wheatley Street beside the pickle ball courts.  

Featured at the event will be guest speaker Rev. Robert T. Smith, retired pastor of the Antioch Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, Virginia, along with Mercedes Hill performing praise dances.  A box lunch from Center Street Grill and SmokeHouse will be served, consisting of barbeque, baked beans, slaw, dessert and drinks.  

The luncheon is sponsored by the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority, the New Vision Youth, South Central Kingsport Development, Inc., the Omega Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association, Inc., Kingsport Parks and Recreation, Texas Roadhouse and Charles Maxwell/American Tours and Charters, Inc.  

The day's events conclude at 6 PM with the annual MLK Candlelight Vigil at the Shiloh Baptist Church, 712 East Sevier Avenue, sponsored by the New Vision Youth, South Central Kingsport Community Development and the church.  The guest speaker is 16-year old Tybre Faw of Johnson City, named last year as National Student Ambassador for the '400 Years of African-American History' Commission.  "Justice and equality," Tybre says, "are still the goals to be achieved. The only way to reach those goals is to love each other and use our voices when we see injustice, not just when it affects us personally, but when it affects any one of us."  

Faw was a mentor of the late civil rights pioneer and Georgia congressman John Lewis, who was severely beaten along with dozens of civil rights marchers as he led them across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965.  "Today, Congressman Lewis would say that we have turned a blind eye to what is right.  We need a country that has morals and character and every generation must do its part.  Congressman Lewis called standing up and speaking out 'good trouble.'  We have got to stand up for what is right and loving each other is part of that process."  

Faw is a sophomore at Science Hill High School and was also recently named the National Chair for the 'Let Me Read You Your Rights' campaign and the National Youth Advisor for the John R. Lewis Legacy Institute.  He aspires to graduate high school and college, and then be involved in bringing about change in some capacity on the local, state and/or national level.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service.  To honor Kingsport civic and municipal organizations including first responders and government leaders, candles will be lit by representatives of those groups to further pledge their commitment every day to serve the Kingsport community.