Savannah, Georgia is host to one of the most impressive Martin Luther King Day parades in the entire country. It claims to be the second biggest in fact (behind only Atlanta’s parade) in terms of the number of parade units.
The parade is organized each year by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance Day Association. But while the parade is the highlight event, in fact the celebration in effect is year round. While most cities have a parade and perhaps a few other events on Martin Luther King weekend itself, Savannah’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance Day Association kicks things off in December of the previous year, and ties events to the holiday all the way through October.
For example, here is the schedule of King-related observances for 2011:
December 12, 2010 saw the annual Honorees Reception at the King-Frazier Ballroom at Savannah State University. The 2011 Martin Luther King Day Honorees feted were Alderwoman Mary Osborne, District Attorney Larry Chisolm, and Civil Rights Honoree Mrs. Elizabeth K. Jackson. The official theme for the 2011 Martin Luther King Day observance was also officially announced on this occasion. It is “Dream with a Vision, Live with a Purpose,” submitted by 4th grader Riche’ Williams of the Esther F. Garrison Elementary School. The theme is important, because it is used throughout the year for print ads, programs, and announcements, and of course for the parade itself.
On January 9 is the Interfaith Worship Service at Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church on East Henry Street.
Just two days later on January 11 the Jewish Educational Alliance sponsors a “Musical Salute to Dr. King,” featuring the Savannah Arts Academy Skyelite Jazz Band & Savannah Jazz Orchestra. This is at the Jewish Community Center at 5111 Abercorn Street.
On January 14, Friday of Martin Luther King Day weekend, is the Annual Gospel Fest at the First Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church.
On Sunday, January 16, the Citywide Memorial Worship Service with guest speaker the Reverend Raphael Warnock of Atlanta will be held at the St. Paul Christian Methodist Episcopal Church on Barnard Street.
January 17 is Martin Luther King Day itself, and of course that’s the day of the big parade. People from all over the Georgia Coast region and beyond flock to Savannah for the festivities.
But King-related events continue beyond the holiday. On January 22 is the Business Community Breakfast, held at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center.
A week later on January 29 is the “Express-Success” Education-Career & Youth Talent event at the May Street YMCA.
February 5 brings the Unity Luncheon back at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center. Tickets for the fundraiser are $35.
2011’s Annual Dr. King Freedom Ball will be held on February 26 at the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum Annex. Tickets are $25.
April 4 brings the Scholarship Program event, location and details of which have not yet been announced.
Finally, all the way on October 13 is the Community Giveback Program at the Gaines Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church on May Street, an appropriately service-oriented event to close out the year’s Martin Luther King observances.
For more information about the parade and other events, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance Day Association can be reached at 912-234-5502.
Robin Wright Gunn, “Late to the Parade.” Connect Savannah.
Kim Gusby, “MLK Observance Day Association Announces 2011 Theme Contest Winners.” WSAV.com.
Kim Gusby, “MLK Observance Day Association to Recognize Honorees during Marshal’s Reception.”
“32nd Annual MLK, Jr. Observance Day Celebration 2011 Honorees Reception.” Savannah Herald.