Yesterday, Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned 91.
Imagine that: King as a proud father and doting grandfather, swapping stories with old friends at the local coffee shop, bantering with wife Coretta (were she still alive) about leaving the toilet seat up after all these years. It’s what most of us would wish for our family members, to live to a ripe old age surrounded by love and happy memories.
Instead, King was assassinated at age 39, felled by racism and hatred, a martyr to the cause of civil rights and universal peace. Instead of a long, active, productive life, the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner left a legacy and a template – for change, for struggle, for unity.
That is what Knoxville’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission is celebrating with its 38th annual King Week Celebration, culminating on Monday, Jan. 20, with MLK Day, a national holiday.
This week has already seen an interfaith prayer service, and today there is a leadership educational symposium. At 6:30 p.m. Friday, there will be a Community Forum at the Beck Cultural Center, 1927 Dandridge Ave. Presented by the commission and the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, the 11th annual forum is open to all.
Fellowship, conversation and music will fill the evening. More info: 865-776-5050.
Youth development and leadership training will be on the calendar Saturday during the MLK Youth Symposium at Austin-East High School, 2800 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. Saturday will also feature in-service training in coordination with Knox County Schools.
The annual YWCA Race Against Racism takes place 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, beginning at the Phyllis Wheatley Center, 124 S. Cruze St. There will be a 5K run and one-mile walk. Info is here.
On Sunday, Jan. 19, A Night With the Arts featuring the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra and the Carpetbag Theatre will take place at 6 p.m. at the Historic Tennessee Theatre, 604 S. Gay St. Singers, dancers, actors and poets will combine for a memorable stage production. It is free and open to the public.
The annual MLK parade is Monday, Jan. 20, with lineup at 8:30 a.m. and step-off at 10 a.m. from the Midway at Chilhowee Park, 3300 E. Magnolia Ave.
MLK Week will conclude with the traditional MLK Memorial Tribute service at 11:45 a.m. Monday, following the parade. The service will be held at Overcoming Believers Church, 211 Harriet Tubman St. The Rev. Dr. Harold Middlebrook will be the keynote speaker at the service, which will also include community award presentations. Middlebrook was a friend of King and an active member of the civil rights movement.
The University of Tennessee’s MLK Day Lecture, at 7:30 p.m. today at Room 203, James A. Haslam II Business Building, 1000 Volunteer Blvd., offers a fresh perspective on King’s legacy. Dr. Maurice Hobson of Georgia State University will present “The King of the World: Dr. Martin Luther King and Public Memory.” In reminding listeners that King was once the most hated figure in the United States, Hobson will talk about how King’s legacy has been whitewashed and exploited by American capitalism.
City and county offices will be closed on Monday, as will county convenience centers. Waste Connections will run its regular garbage and recycling routes. KAT vehicles will run on the KAT Saturday schedule.
Betsy Pickle is a veteran entertainment, features and news reporter.