The 45th annual Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration has deep roots in the Holy City. Initiated by the YWCA of Greater Charleston in 1972, it is among the longest-running events in town.
The celebration, stretched across two weekends, begins today with area worship services designed to acknowledge King and his work. Participating churches are Mount Zion AME Church downtown, Bible Way Baptist Church in West Ashley, Emmanuel Baptist Church on James Island, Allen AME Church on Edisto Island, Canaan Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, New Hope Baptist Church near Johns Island and St. Paul Presbyterian Church in Hollywood.
On Jan. 15, Morris Street Baptist Church downtown will again host a 4 p.m. ecumenical service free and open to all. The service will feature keynote speaker Benjamin L. Crump, a civil rights attorney currently representing the family of slain black teenager Trayvon Martin. Crump also is the president of the National Civil Rights Trial Lawyers Association and CEO of the Benjamin Crump Social Justice Institute, created to address social issues that disproportionately impact the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.
He has received the National Civil Rights Museum’s Freedom Award, the American Association for Justice Johnny Cochran Award, the NAACP Thurgood Marshall Award and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Martin Luther King Servant Leader Award.
On Jan. 16, officially Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Charleston will host the annual parade, which starts at Burke High School at 11 a.m. and ends at Marion Square. Chris Singleton, son of Sharonda Coleman-Singleton who was one of the nine killed at Emanuel AME Church, will serve as parade marshal. Immediately following the parade is a Youth Speak Out nearby on the College of Charleston campus.
The celebration concludes on Jan. 17 with the annual MLK Business and Professional Breakfast at 7 a.m. in the Gaillard Center's ballroom and exhibition space. The breakfast, whose honorary chairman is Mayor John Tecklenburg, features keynote speaker Eugene Woods, president and CEO of Carolinas HealthCare System.
Woods leads a healthcare system with 62,000 employees and more than 900 care locations in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. He has spent 24 years as a leader in the healthcare field. On Jan. 1 he became chairman of the American Hospital Association.
Immediately following the breakfast is the MLK Youth Forum, also held at the Gaillard.
For more information, go to www.ywca-charlestonsc.org.