Houston's Mayor Sylvester Turner (center) surrounded by other speakers, addresses attendees at the Jan 5, 2023 press conference. Photo by Aswad Walker.

The Black Heritage Society, in partnership with the City of Houston, is sponsoring its 45th Annual Original MLK Jr. Day Parade & Festival on Monday, Jan. 16 at 10 a.m. The parade will be held downtown starting on Lamar at Smith Street.

The theme is “Climbing the Mountain to a Better Future.” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner will serve as grand marshal. The co-grand marshals are Rev. Dr. Derek King, nephew of Dr. King and Dr. Camille Cash, a Houston plastic surgeon, with a memorial tribute to the late activist John Bland.

“As I have shared with members of my team, this is the year to execute and implement across all areas of our city and to go over and above what we’ve done in the past,” said Turner during a recent press conference officially announcing parade logistics. “So, on Monday, Jan. 16, our city will come together to honor Dr. King’s life and legacy. And I encourage people from all Houston neighborhoods and all walks of life and all communities, to show up and line the parade route.”

Turner announced the parade will have 156 entries, including 14 floats and 12 marching bands, with Texas Southern University’s Ocean of Soul leading off the parade. The University of Houston’s band, Turner’s alma mater, the Rice University Owl Band and longtime parade participate, Evan E. Worthing High School’s band, will also participate.

Turner also mentioned that he invited several Houston sports legends—Elvin Hayes, Zina Garrison and Carl Lewis—to join the festivities.

Teresa Brewer, head of the Black Heritage Society, reflected on the fact that this year is Turner’s last as Houston’s mayor as she addressed Turner and attendees at a press conference.

“This year is extraordinary because it is the last Original Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade held under your administration, Mayor Sylvester Turner. Over the past seven years, Mayor Turner has led our city through natural disasters, pension reform, adversity, even COVID and post-COVID adversity. He leaves a legacy of unity, bringing diverse people together, making Houston proud. He’s impacted lives economically, physically, technologically, and we just appreciate all of it. The Black Heritage Society believes he is a wonderful representation of the King’s Dream.

“I remember so many great memories of Ovide Duncantell, and we stand on his shoulders,” shared State Rep. Ron Reynolds. “His legacy and his excellence, his perseverance, lives on. And I’m so happy to see the Black Harrison Society continue to keep this going strong. And Mayor Turner, under your leadership, it is bigger, it is better, it is stronger. And I know that in your last year as mayor, we are going to show up and show out. And I know that you being the Grand Marshal and all of us working together, coming together like only H-Town can, Ovide Duncantell is going to be smiling from heaven.”

“This is a parade honoring the legacy of Dr. King, which means we are marching and parading against hate, prejudice, discrimination and division. This is a parade that acknowledges that we can all live together as brothers and sisters, and there’s no place to demonstrate that better than right here in the city of Houston,” said Turner.

The MLK Festival is held immediately following the parade and ends at 5 p.m. at Hermann Park Square at Houston City Hall and is free to the public. The children will enjoy a Day of Service learning about Dr. MLK Jr. There will be food trucks, vendor booths, live music, a DJ, youth activities and more.

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Aswad Walker

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...