In this KNH File Photo, KMWA leader and Bus 21 driver Robert Morgan, Jr. leads the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade in Jan. 2020. The 2021 MLK Day event will not include a parade and will encourage social distancing and mask-wearing for a safe and festive celebration of the life of the civil rights leader and icon.

The first major public event of 2021 in Kilgore will be the annual ceremony honoring the life and achievements of community leader and civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kilgore Men & Women of Alliance organize and host the event each year, and City Councilman and KMWA leader Victor Boyd says this year’s event will be slightly different, with extra precautions against the spread of COVID-19.

“Normally we’d have a march but we’re not going to have a march this year,” Boyd said. The event normally begins with a march at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Building, as a group of marchers sings church hymns as they make their way to downtown Kilgore. This year, the event will start at the Texan Theater with social distancing in place.

“We don’t want to create an environment for COVID,” Boyd said.

“We’ll start doing our prayer and performance at 10 a.m. on the 18th,”

In addition to honoring the life and legacy of MLK, the event also grants special honors to members of the community who promote unity, success and fellowship here in Kilgore and who embody MLK’s mission of equality and compassion.

Boyd said the group didn’t want to make the day’s ceremony overly long and added it will last approximately one hour, beginning at 10 a.m.

Vendors who have served at previous year’s events will be on hand once again, including Las Tejanitas and Stanley’s BBQ.

Boyd said it would be a good chance for locals to support their local food vendors and restaurants while also getting a chance to safely and cautiously come together in celebration.

“We’re being festive but cautious. You’ve got to have safety first.”

He hopes for a good turnout from KMWA members, community members and past honorees and their families at the Texan Theater.

Boyd said, as 2021 begins, he hopes to see many in the Kilgore community showing their local pride and spirit while working together to keep each other safe.

“You have to continue,” he said.

“It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.”

KMWA, which recently hosted a successful coat drive over the Christmas season here in Kilgore, is dedicated to being a visible and supportive part of the local community.

“That’s the thing with Kilgore Men & Women of Alliance,” Boyd said.

“We want to remain visible and be visible in the community, to let the community know we’re here for them.”

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