KINGSPORT – Despite the cold weather, a large crowd took to the streets on Monday to honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
The 18th annual MLK parade began just before noon in downtown Kingsport. Bundled up in their winter attire, participants made their way along Center Street, many holding signs calling for peace, love and unity.
“We’re special here because we’re not polarized,” said parade organizer Ronnie Collins. “Those cities outside of here – Chicago, Atlanta, New York City and all those cities that have had problems in the past, we don’t have that here.
“We praise God that we haven’t had riots, we don’t try to burn down our own city or burn down our own community; we’re not doing that here. We believe that nonviolence is the only way to approach, or to deal with racism.”
The theme of this year’s parade – “The Answer to Racism is the Love of Christ” – was prevalent throughout the event. Collins pointed out to parade-goers that King wasn’t just an activist, but also a “pastor and born-again believer.”
Some city and county officials, including City Manager Jeff Fleming, Kingsport Chief of Police David Quillin and Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson, participated in the walk. A number of community organizations, including H.O.P.E., Joshua Generation and New Vision Youth, were also represented.
As the parade came to a close, Collins encouraged everyone to do their part in preventing violent shootings and protests from happening here.
“We have to have the attitude that Christ can change the hearts and the minds of people; He’s the only one that can do it,” Collins said. “It’s not contingent on what people do to you. It’s how you respond to them.”
Parade sponsors included Food City, City of Kingsport, Office Depot, Joshua Generation (JGII), My Brother's Keeper, Putting Babies First, Tennessee & Virginia Fellowship Against Racism, New Vision Youth, H.O.P.E. and the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency.