Blount County celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Blount County residents honored the memory and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday with a parade and a celebration program.
About 70 Blount County residents and public officials met at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Alcoa to march down Hall Road to Maryville College’s Clayton Center for the Arts, where a celebration program was held to honor King.
Long-time civil rights activist McKinley Flowers Jr., along with his wife of 56 years, Magnolia Hood Flowers, served as co-grand marshals of the march.
“It’s been nothing but constant change, and that’s good,” Flowers told The Daily Times as he prepared for the march. “Most of my adult life has been in civil rights work, community organizations and attempting to show the way for younger men and women and show some sense of appreciation of the past. Not living in the past, but living by the past so they don’t repeat the past unknowingly.”
Flowers, who was born and raised in Alcoa and served in both the U.S. Marines and later the Army, said it was extremely difficult to see signs of racism growing up.
“We grew up in the community where we were the only black family,” Flowers said. “As we grew up, there was no visible difference in terms of treatment. But as we hit the teenage years, there seemed to be a changing of the guard. From that point it was my effort to find out why, and as I found out why, I took action to change it because I didn’t think it was justified. From my early youth, there’s been that struggle for me.”
Flowers is still active in community organizations that focus on the same objectives of trying to show the way for young people and showing what the struggle has been, and where society needs to go.
He said it was a great honor to be a co-grand marshal with his wife.
“I think she deserves it,” Flowers said. “She’s been my supporter all these years. We’ve been married for 56 years, and that’s unheard of these days.”
During the celebration event at the Clayton Center, the MLK Celebration Mass Choir performed many different musical numbers.
Micky Roberts, Blount County Health Department director and MLK Planning Committee member, acknowledged public officials such as Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell, Alcoa Mayor Don Mull and Maryville City Manager Greg McClain, who delivered closing remarks.
Hannum receives award
Sharon Hannum, former chairwoman of the MLK Celebration Committee, was the recipient of the Anthony “Tidy” Dunnings Community Service Award for her achievements in developing the celebration. The award was named for Dunnings, the former director of the MLK Community Center and community leader, who died unexpectedly in 2008 at age 37.
Hannum was nearly in tears when she received a big surprise as her son, Todd, appeared to present the award to her.
“It’s kind of interesting to see her get this award, because people ask me what it’s like to have her at home,” Todd Hannum said. “There are countless times I thought about her life lessons. The decision to become a leader in particular wasn’t necessary, but the decision was a necessity.”
“She more than meets the criteria as the former chair for the Blount County MLK Celebration Committee,” said Adriel McCord, an executive at SunTrust Bank and MLK Planning Committee member who served as the master of ceremonies.
“She spent timeless hours to make sure we not only honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but also have the call to action to carry on his dream.”
Christi Fightmaster, co-chairwoman of the MLK Celebration Committee, said the marching crowd was comparable to years past, but the challenges to keep the event strong continue to grow after 12 years of involvement.
“There was walking during a lot of the Inauguration festivities, but we had a pretty good turnout,” Fightmaster said. “That’s a big challenge we have every year, and it’s just a big part garnering the awareness.
“This year has been an incredible showing of support. We have wonderful places that have been excellent about getting the word out. We also have a very active Facebook page. That’s an easy way for us to share a lot of information. We’re getting a lot of volunteers from that, as well was word of mouth.
“I think that it’s a great opportunity for our county to celebrate our diversity,” Fightmaster continued. “I think it’s like any other community, we have our challenges as far as everyone coming together. This is one time a year where everyone makes a concerted effort to participate and remember Dr. King’s dream. That’s what this day is all about.”