Beginning on Saturday, several community events will be held to honor King’s memory and legacy. The Rev. Kenneth Calvert, pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church and one of the event organizers, said each activity serves as a way to “commemorate the goodness of America.”
“This year, if Dr. King was alive, he would’ve been 91 years old,” Calvert said. “It’s sad that he lost his life when he was 39, but the legacy will never die. It’s part of American culture, and to me that’s important.”
The first chance to celebrate the holiday in Kingsport will be with community MLK bingo, to be held Saturday from 6-8 p.m. at the Riverview Community Room.
Johnnie Mae Swagerty, New Vision Youth director and one of the event organizers, said the event is free, but participants should bring a gift for the winners. A dinner of soup beans and cornbread will be served.
Three churches — Central Baptist Church, Christ Fellowship and First Baptist Church — will partner for a unity prayer service on Sunday from 6-7 p.m. This year’s event will take place at Central Baptist Church, located at 301 Carver St.
Pastors Perry Stuckey of Central Baptist Church, Derek Harden of Christ Fellowship and Marvin Cameron of First Baptist Church are leading the effort, but several other churches from across the city have gotten involved, Calvert said.
Most of the festivities will be held Monday, starting with the 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Holiday Parade. Following the parade, a community luncheon will be held in the Riverview Community Room. For those who don’t have a ride, Charles Maxwell of American Tours and Charters Inc. will transport people from the parade to the luncheon via bus, Swagerty said.
Center Street Barbecue will provide the meal at the luncheon, featuring barbecue on a bun, baked beans, coleslaw and drinks paid for by the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce. Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority will once again provide the desserts, and other organizations and businesses, including Eastman and the Kingsport Housing Authority, are also providing support.
Children who attend the luncheon will receive a new book featuring African-American characters, courtesy of the Appalachian Literacy Initiative. The organization will provide 70 books all together, and Kingsport pageant queens will help distribute them at the event, Swagerty said.
A candlelight vigil will close out Monday’s celebrations from 6-7 p.m. at Shiloh Baptist Church, located at 712 E. Sevier Ave. Swagerty said this year’s theme is “Where there is no vision, there is no hope” in remembrance of Xavier Hall, who co-founded New Vision Youth with Swagerty.
New Vision Youth members will recite quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., and 13-year-old Emma Poole will read a speech on Australian motivational speaker Nicholas James Vajicic. Community leaders will light the candle at the vigil, and city and county police will be in attendance.
“This is about coming together and unity,” Swagerty said. “This year, everybody really needs to come together in unity, work together and help a friend, if you see somebody that needs it.”