Chattanooga’s 52nd Annual MLK March/Parade set for Jan. 17

Chattanooga's 52nd Annual MLK March/Parade set for Jan. 17
Staff Photo: 2020 MLK Parade

By Camm Ashford

Eric Atkins, co-chair of the Unity Group, has announced the 52nd Annual MLK March/Parade, which is set for Jan. 17, starting at 1 p.m.

Lineup begins on Peeples Street at 12:15 p.m. The parade will head down East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard towards Miller Park for the beloved Community Gathering, where groups, organizations and individuals will bring greetings in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Groups and organizations are welcome to set up tents and tables at Miller Park, Atkins said.

“Dr. King was always concerned about the human question,” Atkins explained. “We all have worth and value, and should be striving to build up and make the dream of a beloved community a reality in our lifetimes. To reach this, we must begin to see the bright daybreak of peace Dr. King spoke of, one that is rooted in an unarmed and abounding truth and unconditional love.”

The Unity Group was first organized in the fall of 1969. Its purpose was to select Black candidates and help elect them to positions within the local government.

In 1970, the Unity Group initiated what is now known as the Dr. Martin L. King Celebration Event. This event currently consists of workshops, a prayer breakfast, mid-week cross culture worship services, a march, and more.

Additionally, the Unity Group was the driving force behind the renaming of Chattanooga’s 9th Street to M.L. King Boulevard.

On Nov. 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill, proposed by Rep. Katie Hall of Indiana, to create a federal holiday honoring Dr. King. The bill passed the House of Representatives, and the holiday was observed for the first time on Jan. 20, 1986. Initially, some states resisted; and only in 2000, was MLK Day officially observed in all 50 states for the first time.

The King federal holiday falls each year on the third Monday of January (around Dr. King’s birthday on Jan. 15).

Alongside Atkins, the Rev. Charlotte S.N.N. Williams serves as this year’s King event co-chair.