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YWCA's MLK tribute a wide-reaching 10-day series of events

MLK sign.jpg (copy)

Several marchers carried signs honoring King at last year's parade. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

YWCA Greater Charleston’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. tribute is a 10-day-long celebration that includes a parade, ecumenical and worship services, a poetry slam and a racial equality workshop. Thousands of Lowcountry residents take part in one way or another.

This year is the 47th annual King tribute, and it kicks off on Sunday, Jan. 13 with four worship services:

  • 3 p.m. at Mount Zion AME Church, 5 Glebe St.
  • 3 p.m. at Calvary AME Church, 8321 Pine Landing Road on Edisto Island
  • 3 p.m. at St. John Baptist Church, 5676 Ellington School Road, Ravenel
  • 5 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 1110 Camp Road, James Island

On Thursday and Friday, Jan. 17-18, organizers are partnering with the Greensboro, N.C.-based Racial Equity Institute to conduct workshops to help local leaders address racism. Several similar workshops are planned this year, and those interested can sign up at

The MLK Youth Poetry Slam is 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun St. Charleston Poet Laureate Marcus Amaker will emcee and hip-hop artist Benny Starr will perform. Food will be available, and prizes will go to the young winners, who also will perform at the MLK Youth Forum on Tuesday, Jan. 22. RSVP by calling 843-722-1644 or emailing

The big ecumenical service this year is 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20 at Morris Street Baptist Church, and features keynote speaker Samuel L. Green, presiding bishop of the Seventh Episcopal District of the AME Church. The 2019 recipient of the Harvey Gantt Triumph Award, Donald W. Beatty, chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, will receive the award at the service.

The parade is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21. (Participants begin to line up at 8 a.m.) Its route begins at Burke High School, runs along Fishburne Street, east along Sumter Street to King Street, then south to Marion Square, turning east onto Calhoun Street.

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The annual MLK Business and Professional Breakfast is 7 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the Gaillard Center and features keynote speaker Cynthia Bramlett Thompson. Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg is honorary chairman. The 2019 Joseph P. Riley Jr. Vision Award recipients — Michelle Mapp, former CEO of the South Carolina Community Loan Fund, and the nonprofit Together SC — will be honored at the breakfast. 

Thompson, a businesswoman and philanthropist, currently serves as a vice president of the Spoleto Festival USA board of directors. In 2002, she was elected chairwoman of the board of directors of Girl Scouts USA, the world’s largest female organization with more than 3.7 million members. In 2016, she became the first African-American chairwoman of the Toledo Museum of Art after serving on its board for more than 12 years.

In 1993, she and her husband Ronald Thompson founded Midwest Stamping, Inc. in Maumee, Ohio, near Toledo. Ten years later, the company reached No. 28 on Black Enterprise's list of the 100 largest black-owned industrial/service businesses in the U.S.

The theme this year is “Embrace the Dream, Create the Change,” according to organizers.

“Whether it’s a one-on-one conversation calling out prejudice when we see it in our organizations or something more widely visible like leading a march, every one of our actions can create a change in someone else — or even ourselves,” said Elonda Fair O’Neill, chairwoman of the YWCA Greater Charleston board of directors. “Attending this year’s celebration in public support of racial equality is a great step toward putting Dr. King’s dream into action.”

For more information, go to

Contact Adam Parker at or 843-937-5902.

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