Lexington to hold its first MLK parade despite controversy

LEXINGTON, Va. (WSET) -- For the first time in years the Lee-Jackson Parade won't be held on a Saturday.

Instead Lexington will hold its first ever Martin Luther King parade Saturday, put on by the group Community Anti-Racism Education.

Lee-Jackson Day is only celebrated in Virginia, and is the Friday before Martin Luther King Day. Martin Luther King Day is nationally celebrated the third Monday of January.

CARE spokesperson Federick Heard explained why the group wanted to have a parade to celebrate the civil rights leader. "As members of CARE we decided that Lexington deserved the opportunity to celebrate its current status as a vibrant, diverse city, rather than playing the role of a shrine for the lost cause," explained Heard.

It's a move that angered the Virginia Flaggers.

"In the past it has worked very well for this holiday to be shared over the weekend. We would have our festivities on Friday and Saturday and typically they would have theirs on Sunday and Monday," said Flagger Susan Hathaway. She added, "To think that somebody would try and shut down the day that we honor them is just unbelievable."

However, Heard says that's not the case. He pointed out, "There are a lot of people in the city and the county who work on the federal holiday including myself." He continued saying, "We wanted to have a time which was available to the most people in our community to come out and march in solidarity and celebration of Dr. King and his legacy."

The Flaggers says this is just another example of them being persecuted and they are sick of it. "Folks that have for years and years and years kind of sat silently while things have been taken away from us are really upset about that and are starting to come out and say you know this is my history my heritage and I need to be allowed to honor my ancestors however I wish," said Hathaway.

And the city says they will get that chance during the Lee-Jackson parade on Sunday.

Just as CARE will get their chance during its parade.

Heard says everybody is welcome at the MLK parade. The parade will leave from Randolph United Methodist Church at 10 a.m., and so Heard suggests people arrive around 9:30. After the parade, everybody is invited to the church for hot chocolate.

Saturday evening, the group will hold a community event commemorating and reflecting on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They have invited two speakers to the event, Dr. Ted DeLaney of Washington and Lee and Rev. Michael Turner of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Staunton, VA.

More details are available on CARE Rockbridge's website.

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