At the start of 2020, the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade. We gathered in Midtown, layered up against the cold, to pay tribute to the civil rights leader. Baltimore businesses and community members lined up along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard surrounded by the hundreds of spectators that join for this annual tradition. Each year, we look forward to seeing Baltimore come together as marching bands, performers, elected officials, and more honor Dr. King’s remarkable legacy.
Six months after our January parade, the movement of Black Lives Matter that has swept the country is a necessary reminder of that very legacy. The words of Dr. King are quoted to this day because they speak so accurately to this very moment. We are hopeful that in 2021 we may resume our gatherings and continue our annual parade, to honor the voices that continue to rally against racism and injustice today.
We hear these voices of change throughout Baltimore: in protest, in artwork, through communities, organizations and individuals. With this in mind, we are asking Baltimore to nominate an Honorary Grand Marshal for our Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade next year. Consider your community leaders, the ones that are fighting now and year-round for change in our City. Consider the individuals that have stepped up this year to make sure that Black voices are supported and amplified. Consider those that have helped keep communities safe as we face not only social unrest but also a worldwide pandemic. Our parade should be as much about honoring a legacy as it is about making sure the values and lessons of that legacy are applied each day. Our call for nominations for the Honorary Grand Marshal is open now, with more information available at www.promotionandarts.org.
Coinciding with this historic moment across our country, we celebrate Juneteenth this Friday. As we commemorate the freeing of the last slaves in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the Black Lives Matter movement reminds us yet again to consider how history remains relevant. Juneteenth is an annual opportunity to reflect on slavery’s unique place in American history, and its effects—past and present. Juneteenth celebrates freedom and it is important that Americans of all colors know their legacy and its weight on the present day. More organizations than ever have begun to recognize Juneteenth, and the national conversation finally highlights this day. Let us all keep this level of focus and amplification as strong going forward.
Donna Drew Sawyer
CEO, Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts