MLK Jr. quotes hang on banners around downtown Wilmington in lieu of annual parade

Flags with quotes hang downtown to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in downtown Wilmington was canceled this year.

Back in September, the decision was made to cancel the parade to avoid spreading COVID-19.

“I just felt like it just wasn’t safe,” said Hollis Briggs Jr. who has been organizing the MLK parade in Wilmington for 18 years. “People don’t realize the planning process starts right after the Azalea festival in April and May. And that’s when we start putting all this together. And I just knew that I could not continue forward past September, with the idea of having a parade here in downtown Wilmington. There are a lot of things that have to be done, a lot of money that has to be spent. And I didn’t want to spend all that money and not be able for my organization to get it back.”

Briggs said it was a tough decision to make, not only personally but for the thousands that typically visit for the event and participate in it.

Briggs said the decision ultimately came down to listening to the governor’s orders to help stop the spread of the virus, but he says now, he’s glad the event isn’t happening.

“The parade would have been a logistical nightmare,” said Briggs. “Just trying to get us enough protection down here to make sure we can celebrate the parade carefully and safely. So, I think the government agencies that do protect the parade, even now, will probably sigh a little sigh of relief; it would have been a lot, we would have had to have a lot of security to pull that off.”

So instead, Briggs worked with the City of Wilmington to put up signs on the light poles of where the parade route would have gone—Third and Fourth streets. Each has a quote from Dr. King. Briggs says they’ll stay up through Black History Month and he hopes to get even more to put up next year.

Briggs says he’s working with the Cape Fear Alliance for Trees on doing a big tree planting event next month. Details have not been announced.

Briggs and organizers of the parade are already planning next year’s event.

“I’ve got sponsors that are calling me wanting to be on board for 2022,” said Briggs. “I got a sponsor from Phoenix, Arizona; they called me just the other day. They want to be on the web page. So we are moving forward; we haven’t stopped. We just put it on pause.”

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