Participants in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr march were treated at the end of the march route with a change in the annual program. This year, instead of a local keynote speaker, the crowd listened to an address from President Barack Obama.
The address began immediately following a welcome from Tennessee State University president, Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover. Organizers had two jumbo screens set up on the sides of the stage in which the second inauguration of President Obama in Washington, D.C. was being streamed live.
“It’s a historic moment. We got President Obama and Martin Luther King in one. It’s a blessing. It’s a historical moment,” said Tammy Epperson.
Epperson, a Nashville native, has attended the annual event every year for the last 10 years. She says this year was very special to her and very different from previous MLK Day celebrations.
This year, the march started an hour earlier to ensure marchers were able to watch the inauguration. Also, instead of various groups meeting at several sites along Jefferson Street prior to the march, everyone was asked to meet at Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church were 92Q’s Connie Donnell hosted a youth event. Shortly after, local dignitaries including Mayor Karl Dean, Senator Thelma Harper and Councilman Brady Banks took to the front of the procession and lead the crowd towards the Gentry Center.
The change in time and program to accommodate President Obama’s second inauguration was definitely worth it according to Ardana Foxx. She has participated in the march every year. She recalls the first time she came to the celebration 28 years ago when her daughter was just a baby.
“It’s so historic to me, not just because it’s MLK Day on President Obama’s inauguration, but it’s also the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation,” said Foxx.
All the more reason why Patricia Stokes, one of the event organizers and CEO of the Nashville Urban League, says the committee made special changes this year. The committee began meeting in September. Plans for the MLK Day event were going on as scheduled each year, but things changed after President Obama was re-elected.
“Of course we had to be flexible to coordinate activities with what’s going on in Washington. We were trying to continue our tradition of honoring Dr. King knowing people wanted to watch and witness the inauguration,” added Stokes.
“I think it was the perfect thing to do. There’s no other speaker I think anyone would have wanted to hear. I’m so proud of who we are and who God made us to be. This is only the beginning of what God has in store for us,” said Foxx.