Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service
“when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
January 18, 2021
Location: Depot Street Park
The McKinney Center is not only named for a legacy of African American history in the town of Jonesborough, Ernest McKinney and his family, but it was the Black school built in 1940 and served as that until desegregation. It is a perfect pairing for the McKinney Center to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. each year on MLK Day by also celebrating Jonesborough’s own Black History while giving something back to the community.
Starting in 2018 the McKinney Center hosted a Peace Walk and Community Art Project. Participants meet at Depot Street Park to gather. Opening remarks are given and Martin Luther King Jr.’s is quoted. Participants then walk with one another to important landmarks in downtown Jonesborough while on a similar path as past community member Alfred Greenlee. Alfred Greenlee was an example of generosity in Jonesborough to many and every day would take the same walk through town. Throughout the walk members of the community, either as actors or as themselves, stop the group at particular landmarks to tell a story of African American history. The McKinney Center sees these parts of our history as a vital portion of our town’s story. This event has included stories of Alfred Greenlee, Jonesborough’s Buffalo Soldier, Alfred Martin Rhea, the Eureka Inn, John Russaw, and the Emancipator Newspaper.
After walking and learning together the group returns to Depot Street Park. This is where the group works together to make a design on the chain-link fence at the park. This project stems from the desire to have the community work together and to beautify a section of Jonesborough. We use this particular spot at Depot Street Park because is it is a place in Jonesborough where many African American families have resided, including Alfred Greenlee. The McKinney Center wants to highlight this part of our downtown and encourage others to enjoy the park. We also use this opportunity to show that using art can bring people together as we create something together. This creates a space in our community to join together and interact and bring overall happiness and health to our community.
In 2018 the fence design featured hearts with rainbow colors and this year it will be the word “Peace.” This has been a successful way to bring our community together. In 2018 Jeremy Reeves, a local student, said that he felt “The spirit of Alfred was walking with us.” We hope it progresses in the future as a way to continue to honor Martin Luther King Jr., service projects, and our own community members, past or present, who are furthering the work of Dr. Martin Luther King’s.
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The McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School is a multi-use facility providing arts education through Jonesborough's Mary B. Martin Program.