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UT students, faculty, and staff join the Knoxville community to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade on
UT students, faculty, and staff join the Knoxville community to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade on January 20, 2020. Photo by Steven Bridges/University of Tennessee.

Students, faculty, and staff from UT commemorated the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. through a number of events on campus and in Knoxville over the weekend.

On Saturday, more than 400 volunteers showed up to 22 different sites for the annual MLK Day of Service. The event is organized by UT’s Jones Center for Leadership and Service. The turnout was the largest ever for the program.

Participants worked with community partners on tasks such as sorting donations with Remote Area Medical, cleaning up landscapes with Keep Knoxville Beautiful, and enhancing community spaces at Odd Fellows Cemetery and the Beck Cultural Exchange Center.

“It’s inspiring and humbling to see so many people come out this morning to serve,” said Devon Thompson, a freshman from Atlanta, Georgia. “MLK did it for us, and he changed the world, so we are going to give back for him.”

Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Shea Kidd Houze addressed the participants before each team departed for their service sites. She encouraged participants to think about their “why” and how as Volunteers they can be citizens of action.

Senior Camryn Cupp, a site leader for the day of service from Knoxville, Tennessee, stressed the importance of the event and celebrating diversity through service.

“This is great way to honor Dr. King’s legacy and celebrate the servant leadership that he demonstrated,” she said. “We’re taught to be servant leaders every day on campus. This is our time to act on that, to bring awareness to the importance of diversity in our community, and to advocate for social change,” she said.

On Monday, more than 200 students, faculty, and staff joined the Knoxville community for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.

Participants included Chancellor Donde Plowman, UT System Interim President Randy Boyd, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Engagement Tyvi Small, and members of various campus organizations.

Senior Tiffani Toombs from Memphis, Tennessee, reflected on the atmosphere and spirit of the day.

“It seems small, but something as simple as showing up and being present says, ‘Hey, I care,’” she said. “It speaks volumes to have such a big showing from UT out here today.”

UT hosted two other events earlier last week honoring King. On Monday, January 13, Theotis Robinson Jr. spoke at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration hosted by the Office of Multicultural Student Life in collaboration with the Black Cultural Programming Committee and the Commission for Blacks.

Robinson, an alumnus who received an honorary doctorate at last month’s commencement ceremony, pushed the university to desegregate in 1961, becoming one of the three first black undergraduate students at UT. He went on to serve in a number of staff roles at UT and in the UT System, including vice president for equity and diversity.

On Thursday, January 16, Georgia State University Associate Professor Maurice Hobson delivered a lecture in the Haslam Business Building on King’s legacy, the myths surrounding it, and how it is presented in public memory.​