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Thousands attend Charlotte march honoring Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and legacy

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day March
Nick de la Canal
Local faith leaders led a unity march through uptown Charlotte in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.

Protest songs, hymns and the rhythmic beat of a drumline pulsed through uptown Charlotte on Sunday in honor of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in the city's first such march since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lyrics echoed along the street from "We Shall Overcome," "This Little Light of Mine" and "Lift Every Voice And Sing." A group of local faith leaders led the march, which included people from collegiate, business, faith and labor groups.

The march wound along Tryon and Third streets and ended with a wreath-laying ceremony at the statue of Dr. King in Marshall Park.


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At the ceremony, Bishop Tonyia Rawls encouraged the crowd to keep Dr. King's dream for equality alive.

"Martin left us with a foundation upon which we now are charged to carry: his diverse, rainbow coalition, rainbow vision of the world, and what is possible, not only in the world but in this city of Charlotte that so many of us call home," Rawls said.

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles connected Dr. King's vision to local issues in Charlotte.

"What can we do to house people? What can we do to help those that have been formerly incarcerated? What can we do about poverty? These issues have not gone away. They're hard work. They're things that are not easy to get done," she said. "We’ve done a lot of good, but we haven’t housed people that need housing. We haven’t recognized that guns kill people that we love and care deeply about."

The march was organized by the city of Charlotte's MLK Planning Committee. The committee decided to bill this year's event as a march rather than a parade.

The committee's chair, the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Boswell, said at the ceremony the decision was based in part on the 2020 murder of George Floyd and the nationwide protests over police brutality and racial inequality that followed.

Other towns surrounding Charlotte plan to host events commemorating the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday.

  • The city of Concord planned to hold a march and wreath-laying ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Monday at MLK Plaza on Cabarrus Ave.
  • The Town of Davidson planned to host a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at the Davidson Town Hall on Monday at 10 a.m.

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Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal