By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — The theme “Moving On Towards Freedom, Justice, and Equality” perfectly describes the Knoxville  2023 celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Events celebrating Dr. King will begin in the winter months and culminate as summer arrives. One of the largest and longest celebrations in the country; the Martin Luther King Commemorative Commission has planned nine major events to be held around the city celebrating through the arts, education, forums, an oratorical contest, tributes and prayer services. The events will culminate in the new tradition of marching in the Juneteenth and Celebration Parade.

The events began January 6 with a Gallery of Arts tribute held at the Emporium Center with an interfaith prayer service held at the Children of God Ministries.

On Thursday, January 12 there will be a Leadership Educational Symposium held in the student union complex at the University of Tennessee. Rev. A.R. Bernard will be the keynote speaker for the Leadership Award Luncheon following the symposium.

With over 45,000 members, Rev. Bernard pastors the largest house of worship in New York, Christian Cultural Center (CCC) with its culturally diverse congregation is considered one of the fastest growing churches in America.

Also speaking for the memorial tribute service on Monday, January 16, the actual holiday, will be Bishop Rudolph McKissick, Jr. Bishop McKissick is the pastor of the Bethel Church in Jacksonville, FL. Bethel is the oldest existing Baptist Church in Florida and has over 10,000 members. Bishop is also a musician and renowned author. He will be speaking during the tribute service at one of Knoxville’s largest churches, Overcoming Believers Church, where Pastor Daryl Arnold shepherds over 2,000 members.

The weekend before the memorial is filled with events around the city. Rev. Renee Kesler current president/CEO of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, will host a community forum for the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, and an oratorical contest presented by the Jack and Jill Association will be held at Austin East Magnet High School. 

The weekend will round out with another Evening of the Arts at the Cox Auditorium on the University of Tennessee campus as the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra presents a tribute in conjunction with the MLK Celebration Choir.

Spring events include a teacher in service training event to be held in March at the Sarah Simpson Training Facility. On Juneteenth, the events which will have been held over half of the year with culminate in one of Knoxville’s largest parades and celebrations.

Please contact Clarence Vaughn, III or Thomas Tank Strickland for further event information at (850) 322-9532 or please visit