Beginning on January 11, 2024, South Carolinians will come together to celebrate Charleston’s 52nd Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration. Put on by YWCA Greater Charleston each year, the tribute—first held in 1972 as one of the first national tributes of its kind—is a multi-day event reigniting Dr. King’s dream of racial equality.
All events will be held in person. This year’s theme is “Step Up. Advance the Movement.”
MLK PARADE MARSHAL
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Parade will cap off the tribute this year. Members of the public are invited to come out to cheer on the marching bands, parade floats, dancing groups, and others of the more than 100 groups in the parade. Beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, January 15, it will run from Burke High School in downtown Charleston down to Marion Square, turning east onto Calhoun Street.
Leading off the parade will be this year’s parade marshal, David White, Jr., culinary influencer and executive director of R3: Real Talk, Real Action, Real Results.
White, who promotes Black food along with diversity and inclusion in the food industry through his social media initiative The Dropping Pin, has collaborated with major festivals and others, most recently collaborating with Food Network Canada. He also now leads media relations for the Black Food Truck Festival in addition to his leadership of R3 and his decade-long position with the Department of Social Services, and serves on the boards of Charleston Promise Neighborhood and Always Awkward Hospitality Group.
White previously owned and operated Laundry Matters, a laundromat and community hub where he pioneered after-school programs, computer classes, and free laundry services for the homeless and area residents. He holds a bachelor’s degree and MBA from South Carolina State University, which named him to its inaugural Forty Under 40 class.
MLK DRUM MAJOR FOR JUSTICE
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice Award recognizes an individual who follows in the footsteps of Dr. King, serves as a champion of equal rights, seeks greatness in service and love, selflessly performs daily acts of service to make her or his community and our world a better place, and seeks social justice for all who are repressed, discriminated against, or under-represented.
The special memorial award, which is not given out every year, will posthumously honor Rev. Clementa Pinckney in 2024.
Rev. Pinckney, an advocate for civil rights and a leader in the Christian faith who also served as a South Carolina senator and S.C. House representative, was the youngest African American elected to the S.C. General Assembly and fought for justice after the killing of Walter Scott. President Barack Obama delivered Rev. Pinckney’s eulogy after he was killed in a hate shooting while leading a Bible study at the house of worship he pastored, Mother Emanuel AME Church.
HARVEY GANTT TRIUMPH AWARD HONOREE
This longstanding annual award is named for Harvey Gantt, the first African American student admitted to Clemson University and the first Black mayor of Charlotte, N.C. It recognizes an individual who confronts societal prejudice and bigotry of any kind; adheres to principles of justice, equality, civility, and mutual respect; advances the common well-being of society; builds communication and understanding among diverse peoples; affects innovative and positive change, thought, learning, and activity; and inspires others to pursue these goals.
The 2024 award, which will be given at the MLK Ecumenical Service at 4 p.m. Sunday, January 14, at Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, will honor Herbert L. Drayton, III.
Drayton is the managing partner of venture capital firm HI Mark Capital, which invests in technology-enabled businesses owned by women and people of color across the U.S. Southeast. An advocate for community service and civic leadership who has counseled numerous entrepreneurs of color, he chairs the boards of directors for Coastal Community Foundation and Palmetto Goodwill. In addition, he serves on the boards of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, SCbio, Roper St. Francis Foundation, Bright Focus Foundation, and the Association of Black Foundation Executives. He is also an Advisory Board member of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Access to Capital Committee, former board chair for One80 Place, and founding member of the Charleston Deal Alliance.
JOSEPH P. RILEY, JR. VISION AWARD HONOREE
Recognizing model corporate citizenship, this annual award is named for Charleston’s longest-serving of mayor. It honors an individual, corporation, or institution who achieves outstanding and favorable recognition in their field or industry; promotes diversity and equal opportunity through policy, business practices, and/or advocacy; contributes positively to the growth of the Charleston metropolitan business market; and advances the common well-being of society through community service and other acts of charitable goodwill.
The 2024 award, which will be given at the MLK Business and Professional Breakfast Summit at 7 a.m. Thursday, January 11, at the Charleston Gaillard Center, will honor Harriet W. Wilder.
Wilder, a champion of Charleston’s children, has been a pioneer many times over during her 51 years in education. During her 20 years as a teacher and curriculum consultant for Charleston County School District, she saw that many children were not socially or academically ready for first grade. She took action, founding the first Black privately owned child care center in West Ashley. Nine years later, she opened a second location on James Island. Together, the two Hope’s Treasure Chest locations have guided the development of 2,500 children over a span of 31 years. She and a friend also founded Charleston Progressive Academy, a Charleston County magnet school, in 1997. She holds a bachelor’s degree in early education from St. Augustine’s College and a Master of Education degree from South Carolina State University.
The MLK Day Parade and MLK Ecumenical Service are free to attend and open to the public. Registration to march in the parade will run through Monday, January 8. Registration for the MLK Breakfast Summit will open in early January at ywcagc.org.
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ABOUT YWCA GREATER CHARLESTON
For 116 years, YWCA Greater Charleston has worked to eliminate racism and empower women in Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester Counties. Among its initiatives to eliminate racism are its multi-day MLK Celebration, one of the first MLK tributes in the nation, Stand Against Racism, and Racial Equity & Inclusion workshops equipping leaders and laypeople to combat racism. Among its initiatives to empower women and girls are its #WhatWomenBring event celebrating South Carolina’s women in business, community, and culture, WE 360° workshops helping women of color overcome barriers in entrepreneurship, Y Girls Code clubs financially empowering girls, and SheStrong, empowering young women to develop as leaders and changemakers. For more information, visit ywcagc.org.
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