When it’s too cold outside for Plan A, it’s good to have a Plan B, and that’s exactly what organizers of the 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. celebration Monday at the McKinney Center implemented, with plans at a later date to fulfill the activities that sent the event indoors.
About 80 people attended the joint event sponsored by the McKinney Center and the Jonesborough Story Initiative on Monday, which marked King’s birthday.
The original plan for the event was to gather at the Depot Street Park to decorate the fence and for Vice Mayor Adam Dickson to recite part of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. A peace walk was to follow with stories of Alfred Greenlee, a lifelong Jonesborough resident and longtime town employee; Jonesborough’s Buffalo Soldier, Alfred Martin Rhea; the Eureka Inn; John Russaw; and the Emancipator newspaper.
Even though the event was moved indoors due to the cold temperature, the stories were still told by various presenters, including Eureka Inn proprietor Katelyn Yarbrough, who told a story about a sealed up door with no steps to it on the back of the building. It was where people of color had to enter the inn because the front was only for whites. She said it’s appropriate the door is now sealed and no one will be required to use that back entrance because of the color of their skin.
Dickson said remembering King’s birthday was rooted in the 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech, “when he said society wants to live out the true meaning of its creed, that all men and women are created equally.”
He said there needs to be serious questions asked and answered about what it means to unite and live in harmony.
Brittany Butler and her son, 8-year-old Ethan Miller, attended the Jonesborough event because of its family-oriented nature.
“I actually had never participated in Martin Luther King Jr. Day events, but I like the family aspect,” of Jonesborough’s event, Butler said. “The culture, the times ... I’m starting to realize I have to participate more ... bring people together.”
Jules Corriere, director of outreach at the McKinney Center, said the town has participated in MLK Day events since the center opened in 2014.
“We think it’s important because we work out of a historically black school,” Coriere said. “This building specifically was built to be the segregated school in Jonesborough. Now we’re a place that brings people through the arts and through storytelling instead of a building that separates people.”