The Martin Luther King Jr. parade will wind down Baltimore's MLK Boulevard tomorrow, beginning at noon. Shown here, the marching band from Dunbar High School, participating in Baltimore's 2018 MLK Day Parade.

By DaQuan Lawrence, Ph.D. Candidate at Howard University

On Jan. 16, Baltimore’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade will reconvene for the first time since 2020. The parade was cancelled the previous two years due to local and national health restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mayor Brandon M. Scott announced that the parade will in fact take place this year, after a public spat with officials hosting the parade. 

“There will be an MLK Day parade noon on January 16th kicking off at the normal starting point. My focus during the parade will be very simple! #wemuststopkillingeachother,” said Mayor Scott via Facebook post. 

The Baltimore City Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that the parade will begin at the intersection of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Eutaw Street.  

Participants will proceed south, along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, before heading west and turning right on Baltimore Street, before separating between Fremont Avenue and Poppleton Street. 

After initially cancelling the parade, the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA), a nonprofit organization, which serves as Baltimore City’s arts council, events center, and film office, released a clarifying statement, saying: 

“The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade is a mayoral event. BOPA does not have the authority to, nor would we ever assume to, make unilateral decisions on mayoral events.”

“During the COVID health crisis in 2021 and 2022, the MLK parade was canceled due to mandated health restrictions imposed by the Mayor’s office and the Health Department. This year, the decision was made to honor Dr. King with a day of service, in keeping with the spirit of his life and legacy.”

The AFRO previously reported that Baltimore leaders and community members disagreed with the decision to cancel the 2023 MLK Parade. Since that time, Mayor Scott called for BOPA’s CEO, Donna Drew Sawyer, to be removed or put their funding in danger. Mayor Scott appointed BOPA’s former chief marketing and events officer, Tonya Miller Hall, to serve as the senior adviser for arts and cultural affairs in the Mayor’s Office.

BOPA announced Jan. 10 that its board of directors had accepted a resignation from Sawyer. BOPA’s board said it will determine the search process for the next CEO.

During Sawyer’s tenure, the city cancelled several key events BOPA is known to organize. Cancelled events include the Inner Harbor Fourth of July fireworks in 2020 and 2021; Light City, the Baltimore Book Festival; the Artscape festivals in 2020, 2021, and 2022; the New Years Eve fireworks in at the end of 2020 and 2021, and the outdoor activities for the 2023 New Year’s celebration, although the fireworks returned to the Inner Harbor after a two-year interruption.

The Baltimore City DOT is advising pedestrians, travelers and motorists of the street closures and parking restrictions in effect for the annual MLK Day Parade. Citizens attending the parade are encouraged to arrive early and use public parking facilities in the surrounding areas. All posted parking restrictions will be strictly enforced, and vehicles parked in violation will be ticketed and towed. 

In preparation for the event, the DOT announced the following streets will be closed to through traffic on Monday, January 16, 2023 with detours in effect and parking prohibited:

  • W. Franklin Street between Greene Street and Fremont Avenue – 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Access to westbound Route 40 will be maintained.
  • Eutaw Street between Dolphin Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard – 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Preston Street between Madison Avenue and Howard Street – 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • Madison Avenue between Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Preston Street – 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • W. Baltimore Street between Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Poppleton Street – 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Fremont Avenue between W. Baltimore Street and W. Fayette Street – 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Southbound Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard between Eutaw and Lombard Streets -10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • The left lane of northbound Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard between Lombard and Eutaw Streets (next to median) – 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Pennsylvania Avenue between W. Preston Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard – 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The following parking restrictions will be implemented from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m:

  • Eutaw Street from Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard to Dolphin Street
  • Madison Avenue from Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard to Preston Street
  • W. Preston Street from Madison Avenue to Eutaw Street
  • W. Baltimore Street from Fremont Avenue to Poppleton Street
  • Fremont Avenue from W. Baltimore Street to W. Fayette Street
  • Pennsylvania Avenue from Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard to Preston Street (10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.)

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