KINGSPORT — More than 100 men, women and children — bundled up in heavy coats, hats and scarves — gathered in the parking lot at the corner of East Sevier and Center on Monday morning.
Though it was bitter cold, the sun was out and people showed up 45 minutes early to participate in the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in downtown Kingsport. These folks did not let the cold weather keep them away from honoring King and keeping what is now a 19-year tradition in Kingsport going strong.
Before the 20-minute parade began, the Times News spoke with a few people who participated, asking them what MLK Day meant to them.
Linda Jane Hood has been attending the annual parade every year and thinks the event is a wonderful thing for the residents of Kingsport.
“I’m happy to be here and everyone who’s able enough to do this, needs to do it,” Hood said. “Think about the hardships (King) went through for us to have a better life, to give us things we’d never dream we’d have today. We wouldn’t have it, if not for him and God.”
Hood also shared a story from when she was a little girl growing up in the Midway area of Greene County.
“I went to a restaurant with my mother, who was getting a prescription filled, and they always gave us a free Coke. I was sitting at the counter drinking my Coke and a white man got so furious with me, his face got red, like it was a crime for me to be sitting there,” Hood said. “I was so nervous and shaking, I couldn’t drink my soda. I knew what it was about, the color of my skin.”
Anthony Johnson attended the parade for the first time on Monday. He originally hails from Georgia and has lived in the Tri-Cities area the past 14 years.
“(The parade) needs to continue and we need to bring people together today. The world is so separated, we need to bring unity and make sure everyone is treated fairly throughout the country,” Johnson said, saying it doesn’t matter if one or one hundred people showed up for Monday’s parade.
“As long as unity is being exemplified and demonstrated, that’s a good thing. That’s what we want. Everyone to come together and love each other, no matter who we are or where we come from.”
On the younger end of the spectrum, kids and teenagers from New Vision Youth and Girls Inc. made up a sizable number of parade attendees, carrying signs and posters reading “Unity,” “Peace” and “Love.”
“(Today) means we can all come together and not be in separate schools and all races and religions can come together and be together,” said 12-year-old Emma Poole. “This is my first time and I’m glad a lot of people came to the parade.”
Seventeen-year-old Jaiya Marcus said she felt pretty good about the turnout at Monday’s parade and being able to participate. Her future plans include going to college to be an accountant.
“Thanks to (King) I can have white friends, I can work and I can honestly do anything I put my mind to,” Marcus said. “I’m going to college at Austin-Peay State University and I want to major in accounting. Math is really my strong subject, I’m taking banking and finance now and I really like how it’s going for me right now.”