By Alexander Smith, Staff Writer-
Chattanooga’s Day of Service celebrated the enduring legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the impact of the civil rights movement in the community.
The program was coordinated by the City of Chattanooga’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, in conjunction with UTC’s own Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Unity Group of Chattanooga.
Traditionally, the events of the day included marches from campus and around town, large gatherings and inspirational speeches. This year, however, COVID-19 forced organizers to innovate, creating the MLK Day of Service entirely virtual.
Christopher Stokes, assistant director of Multicultural Affairs, said the events of the day began with the city and included remarks from several city officials, including Mayor Andy Berke. This was followed by videos that highlighted the history of the civil rights movement in Chattanooga.
UTC’s Multicultural Affairs office showed their own videos which showcased the university’s diverse history and impact on the movement and the city at large. UTC’s portion also included words from notable alumni like pro-footballer Terrell Owens.
Unity of Chattanooga also tackled the history of Chattanooga’s movement by spotlighting specific civic leaders and historical marches. Then, Unity’s founders led a reflection on the success and failures of those who came before.
Looking forward, Stokes said he thinks that virtual services allow for increased involvement for the community and those less capable to leave home or participate in the marching. Stokes also mentioned he sees a future with a hybrid service, including virtual follow-up events that give those that missed the in-person service a chance to see the highlights.
All said, Stokes was decidedly optimistic about both this year’s potential and the event’s future. The entire event was hosted on Facebook Live and can be found on UTC’s homepage as well as on the Facebook pages of Unity of Chattanooga and the city of Chattanooga itself.