KNOXVILLE (WATE) – East Tennesseans celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. at two big events on Monday.
Despite the cold hundreds of people lined Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Knoxville for the annual parade in his honor.
“I was very surprised, pleasantly surprised I guess. I figured we’d get here and everybody had bailed, nobody would want to come out in the cold, this cold, because it’s pretty cold out here, but it’s good,” said Tomma Battle with Tabernacle Baptist Church.
The church opened its doors offering a place to warm up for parade spectators. For many in Knoxville it is more than just watching a parade. It is a chance to put aside our differences.
“It’s nice to see all kinds of people from different backgrounds, diverse backgrounds doing something together. I think just mentally and emotionally we really need a picture of that in our community right now,” said Battle.
Local dignitaries also made appearances encouraging unity in our community.
“Especially what’s going on in our country right now, I think unity is more important than anything else,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.
Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero added, “Dr. King stood for non-violence and he literally changed the world through non-violent action.”
All in attendance chose the day to not only remember Dr. King, but also to carry on his dreams.
“I think we need to somehow not make them annual. I mean somehow the spirit that you get here, the spirit that you feel of unity and commonality, we need to carry it throughout the year, you know, throughout life,” said Battle.
About a hundred people, both young and old, marched in the street from Alcoa to Maryville. Each step was about moving forward.
“There’s been a lot of progress over the years but there’s a lot of work to be done,” said Robert Davis, who served as grand marshal with his wife Alma Davis.
The heart of the march was “‘living together in unity.”
“We want for those that weren’t around to actually remember this day and not just think of something they read about in a history book,” said organizer Adriel McCord.
It was a living history lesson for Carrie Talley and her two boys.
“It used to be that there were different schools and different bathrooms. That’s even when bunny was in school, that’s not very long ago,” she said to her sons, ages 7 and 10.
Even at that age, the boys know the power that change had in our country.
“He believed that everyone deserved equal rights and he fought for it and we finally got it,” said Carter Talley standing next to his brother Boone.
Walking between the signs of love were those who remember when things were different.
“We both went to predominantly black schools and then integration came along. So we saw his dream becoming a reality,” said Davis.
Those who were walking were peacefully thinking of Dr. King.
“He said, ‘If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But then remember you must continue to move forward.’ That struck me,” said Davis.
Organizers also say they hope the march is an opportunity for people to reflect on the freedoms we have and not take things for granted.