Chattanooga-area events offer ways to celebrate life, legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Dawn breaks in the eastern sky as a mural of Martin Luther King Jr. appears to look upon the empty street that bears his name. The artwork, located at the intersection of Marin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Peeples Street, was painted by Chattanooga muralist Kevin Bate in 2012. It was inspired by a 1963 photo by Flip Schulke, who recorded much of King's civil rights work. Schulke took the photo just after King's "I Have a Dream" speech delivered in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

Unity marches, community-service projects and luminary speakers will highlight the commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Chattanooga. The federal holiday will be observed Monday, but several events honoring the life and legacy of the civil-rights leader will lead up to that culmination.

Some events quietly acknowledge King's work ethic. On Monday, 1,000 Southern Adventist University students, employees and alumni will continue the campus tradition of honoring King through service to the community. Participants will offer their help at some 30 organizations, including the Chambliss Center for Children, Humane Educational Society, Samaritan Center and Sleep in Heavenly Peace.

"It's a Southern tradition to take time on MLK Day to make a positive difference in our community," Cheryl Craven, director of Christian service at Southern, said in a news release. "My hope is that our students experience the joy of service and make it a way of life, both during their academic career at Southern and following graduation."

The Unity Group of Chattanooga, which is in the midst of a weeklong commemoration, has announced a change in the speaker for its main program on Monday (details below).

The MLK Day celebration at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will come later in the month. Angela Davis, a prominent educator and author, will be the keynote speaker for a program on Jan. 24.


-- Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority's Pi Omega and Zeta Kappa chapters will observe their annual MLK Day of Service with outreach to the homeless noon-1 p.m. Monday at Olivet Baptist Church, 740 E. M.L. King Blvd. Members of the international service organization will partner with the church's Matthew 25 Ministry to provide to-go meals and backpacks filled with winter supplies to continue their commitment of "Soaring To Greater Heights of Service and Sisterhood."

-- Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, 3370 LaFayette Road, Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., is seeking volunteers for its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, scheduled 9 a.m.-noon Monday at the Recreation Field in Chickamauga Battlefield. This year's project will focus on battlefield restoration, including the removal of exotic invasive plant species. Tools will be provided, but participants may want to bring their own gloves. Register at 706-866-9241, ext. 137. Additionally, Point Park, 110 Point Park Road, Lookout Mountain, Tenn., will offer free admission on the federal holiday.

-- Cleveland State Community College is spearheading Cleveland, Tenn.'s MLK Unity March, which starts at 9 a.m. Monday from the Bradley County Courthouse, 155 N. Ocoee St. Donations of gloves, hats and canned goods for The Caring Place will be collected at Broad Street United Methodist Church, 155 Central Ave. NW. Call 423-473-2397 for more information.

-- Lil Mama's Chicago Style Hoagy, 818 Georgia Ave., will celebrate MLK Day and the restaurant's second anniversary by donating 10% of sales Monday to the Chattanooga Choral Society for the Preservation of African American Song. Two customers will be chosen to win free hoagies for a year. The shop is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

-- Unity Group of Chattanooga continues its 53rd annual commemoration with daily events.

Thursday will introduce the Community Haven Patrol at 6 p.m. at the Community Haven, 815 N. Hickory St. The citizens group includes volunteer peacekeepers, street leaders, mentors and conflict resolution mediators whose efforts are meant to keep the communities of Bushtown, Churchville, Avondale, Glenwood and Bay Berry safe.

Friday, Concerned Citizens for Justice will meet at 7 p.m. at Eastdale Village United Methodist Church, 1403 Tunnel Blvd., for a panel discussion on "The Silent Murders." Family members will share stories of lives lost from incarceration and what they view as medical neglect in Silverdale Detention Center.

Saturday, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County NAACP will lead a virtual program at 6 p.m. on "Dr. King, the Purpose of Education and Why Retention Is Punishment." A Zoom link (and other program information) is available at

Sunday at 4 p.m. is the MLK Week Gospel Music Extravaganza, led by Willie McClendon, at Bethel AME Church, 2000 Walker St.

Monday begins with the third annual MLK Day Youth Leadership Symposium, "Building the Beloved Community Through Racial, Economic and Environmental Justice," by the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga. The program is set for 10 a.m. at Bessie Smith Cultural Center, 200 E. M.L. King Blvd.

Monday's main event starts with a parade and march at 1 p.m. from Miller Park down M.L. King Boulevard to Peeples Street. (Lineup begins at 12:30 p.m. beside the park on Georgia Avenue.) At 3 p.m. at Olivet Baptist Church, 740 E. M.L. King Blvd., the Rev. Jerry D. Marable, pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, will deliver the keynote address. The day's theme is "Everybody Can Be Great Through Love and Service."

-- University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is taking registration for its MLK Day event, set for 12:30 p.m. Jan. 24 in the Fine Arts Center. Speaker Angela Davis is the distinguished professor emerita of history of consciousness, an interdisciplinary doctoral program and of feminist studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz. This year's theme is "A Call for Civility."

"Since this is the 10th year celebration, we wanted to make it memorable and bring someone in that was in the height of that era -- talking, speaking, doing a lot of the work and seeking similar outcomes and goals that Dr. King achieved in his work," Christopher Stokes, assistant director of the UTC Office of Multicultural Affairs, said in a news release. "In that space, we get to hear from those voices in that time to share the importance of all of us working together to accomplish those goals."

To register, visit

Contact Lisa Denton at or 423-757-6281.