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2023 Knoxville MLK celebrations begin; parade to be held on Juneteenth this year

This year's theme is Moving on Towards Freedom, Justice and Equality -- celebrating the Dream and the Dreamer.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Friday, Jan. 6

Gallery of Arts Tribute

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission of Knoxville will kick off the 2023 King Week Celebration with an exhibition at the Emporium Center in downtown Knoxville honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Gallery of Arts Tribute is a juried exhibition that recognizes local artists. 

Fine art featuring works by African and African-American artists reflecting themes of love, unity, community, civil rights, social justice and racial reconciliation will be featured in the atrium and north wall galleries at 100 South Gay Street, Suite 201. The first night of celebrations will run from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and the exhibit will be open to the public through Jan. 31.

Wednesday, Jan. 11

Interfaith Prayer Service

MLK Knoxville will hold its first major celebration ahead of MLK Weekend with an interfaith prayer service at Children of God Ministries at 309 Deadrick Avenue at noon. The prayer service brings people in the community from all faiths together in worship to celebrate unity and peace.

Thursday, Jan. 12

Leadership Education Symposium and Awards Luncheon

MLK Knoxville will be hosting "Community Voices and Beyond: How to Move Towards Freedom, Justice and Equality," a leadership education symposium, at the University of Tennessee.

The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Student Union in room 360. The symposium will be focused on dialogue and the exchange of information about social justice issues, providing perspectives and insight on ways to build inclusivity and welcomeness.

The MLK Leadership Awards Luncheon will take place after the symposium in the Student Union Ballroom. The luncheon brings people from all walks of Knoxville together to honor special people who've made a difference in the community. This year, Rev. A.R. Bernard, who leads New York's largest house of worship, will serve as the keynote speaker.

Friday, Jan. 13

Community Forum

The MLK Commemorative Commission will host a community discussion with the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance and others on Friday, Jan. 13, at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 14

Youth Symposium and Oratorical Contest

The MLK Commemorative Commission will host a youth symposium at Austin-East Magnet High School from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The event will have free food, free t-shirts, a spoken word competition, prizes and interactive workshops for both youths and parents. The goal of the MLK Youth Symposium is to enhance students' knowledge of civic engagement, social justice, and personal development.

The theme for this year is "Moving Toward Freedom, Justice, and Equality." The Knoxville Chapter of Jack and Jill of America will host its Teen Oratorical Contest with the themes of Black Excellence and Aspire to Build an Empire.

You can register for the event here.

Sunday, Jan. 15

A Night with the Arts Tribute

The MLK Commemorative Commission will host a Night with the Arts Tribute at the Cox Auditorium on UT's campus, featuring performances including "Of Ebony Embers" and the MLK Holiday Tribute. The performances run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

MLK Celebration Concert 

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra will be partnering with the Tennessee Theatre to host a special tribute concert at 3 p.m. on Sunday. The concert is free and open to the public and will be held at the Tennessee Theatre, featuring the Indigenous Vibes African Drumming Ensemble, Michael Rodgers, and Knoxville Poet Laureate Rhea Carmon.  

Monday, Jan. 16

MLK Day Memorial Tribute Service

MLK Day will feature a memorial tribute service and celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Overcoming Believers Church in Knoxville from noon to 2 p.m. 

The service is the premier highlight event and will include community awards and a keynote speaker.

"Join us as we celebrate, commemorate and remember the Dream and the Dreamer. We look forward to seeing you," the MLK Commemorative Commission said.

 UT MLK Skate Day

The Change Center is hosting the UT MLK Skate Day on Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. This event is free for middle and high school students. Registration for the event is strongly suggested. 

 MLK Vigil

A celebration of the life and legacy of Marin Luther King, Jr. will take place at Oak Valley Baptist Church on Monday. The vigil will start at 1 p.m. 

Saturday, March 25

Teacher In-Service Training

In March, the MLK Commemorative Commission will partner with Knox County Schools to host a teacher in-service training program.

The special training sessions are open to teachers and other professionals, and tie directly in with the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

"Teachers and professionals attending this program will deal with strategies educators can use to close the achievement gap as well as strategies for facing a diverse student body," the commission said.

People interested can sign up at this link.

Monday, June 20

2023 MLK Parade and Juneteenth Celebration

This year's MLK celebrations feature a major change: the annual MLK Parade will be held the Monday after Juneteenth instead of during the MLK holiday weekend. Organizers said the change was made after the 2022 parade had to be canceled due to inclement weather.

The MLK Commemorative Commission said the parade will step off on Monday, June 20, at 10 a.m. at Chilhowee Park before finishing at Dr. Walter E. Hardy Park. After the parade, there will be a special Beck Juneteenth Memorial Tribute in the park. 

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