YWCA youth prepare to march at the 2016 Peace March and Rally sponsored by the MLK Association.

MLK Peace March and Rally

YWCA youth prepare to march at the
2016 Peace March and Rally sponsored by the MLK Association.

The Peace March and Rally is one of several weekend events sponsored by The Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County each year to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. King.

The event, held on the day of the official federal King Holiday and attended by hundreds of area residents and community leaders, is co-sponsored by the City of Asheville. This year’s rally takes place on Monday, January 16, 2017, starting at 11:30 a.m., at St. James AME Church, 44 Hildebrand Street at the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard.

The theme of this year’s MLK celebrations, “Stand up – Speak out – Unfold the Dream for Today!” focuses attention on the issues that Dr. King fought so hard for during his life, including social and economic justice and affordable housing. That theme will remain the focus of the Peace March and Rally, and the annual Candlelight Service the same evening.

The Peace March and Rally commences at St. James AME Church, emceed by Dr. Elizabeth Colton. Uplifting gospel music energizes attendees for the short march to City-County Plaza. Musical selections will be provided by the Redemption Praise Team, under the direction of Mr. Antoine Crawford, and the St. James Praise Team, as well as by Mr. Michael Davis, a student at the University of North Carolina Asheville and winner of the 2015 MLK Scholarship award. Dr. Douglas Luke, Director of Academic Budgeting at UNC Asheville, will explain the purpose of the annual Peace March and Rally, with “marching orders,” by tradition, from MLK Association founder and chairperson Oralene Graves Simmons.

Dr. Joseph Fox, MLK Association Board Vice-chair, will serve as Master of Ceremonies at the City-County Plaza rally. Following a welcome by Dr. Luke, three speakers will briefly address issues of interest and concern: Ms. Johnnie Grant, publisher of the Asheville-based monthly, The Urban News; Ms. Deborah Miles, Executive Director of the Center for Diversity Education at UNC Asheville; and Mr. Brandon Priester, Event Technology Support Technician at A-B Technical Community College and a student at UNC Asheville. The popular local group WestSound, led by Randy Westin, will delight the crowd with its signature music stylings.

Dr. Fox stated that the MLK Association of Asheville and Buncombe County continues to work with other organizations that are concerned about our youth, social and justice equality, and affordable housing. This year members of the community leadership program Me2We will participate in the Peace March and Rally to encourage young people to get involved and take action in their local communities.

Me2We will then hold its annual MLK Youth Summit, facilitated by students from the City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy (CAYLA), at the YMI Cultural Center. The summit offers high school students an opportunity to discuss issues facing local communities in partnership with other organizations such as the Center for Diversity Education and CoThinkk.

The MLK Association also asks local schools, colleges, and community residents to collect nonperishable food items for Manna Food Bank. Collection boxes will be in place in front of St. James AME Church and at City-County Plaza. Members of the Association deliver the items to Manna Food Bank for disbursement to those in need throughout the area.

UNC Asheville is a Gold Sponsor of the MLK Association’s weekend of events, and Warren-Wilson College is a Silver Sponsor. For more information about the Peace March and Rally, contact Dr. Joseph Fox at foxmgtavl@gmail.com.


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