Houston’s “Original” MLK, Jr. Parade is Almost Here

This Marks the First Year without Founder and Pioneer Ovide Duncantell and the First Year the Parade being Supported By City of Houston

Two things happened in 2018 that have already made 2019 a completely different year for the city of Houston as it relates to honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through an annual parade.

First off, in July of last year, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that he was fully supporting The Black Heritage Society’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade as the city of Houston’s “official” MLK Day parade. Secondly, the city of Houston lost one of its greatest civil rights icons and the founder of the first parade in the nation to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King – Mr. Ovide Duncantell.

The decision for Turner to call for citizens, sponsors and participants to honor Dr. King’s legacy and unite for one special MLK Day Parade that reflects the diversity and inclusion of the city of Houston came as no surprise to many in the community. Turner made very clear his position several months prior that the city of Houston needed to address the longstanding drama that surrounded having two parades competing with one another less than two miles away from each other – on the same day – at the same time – seeking to honor the same man.

Back in January of 2018, Turner stated that: “This division in our city must come to an end, and it’s got to come to an end right now, and we are the ones that must make the decision. That’s not what Dr. King stood for. A house divided cannot stand.”

For over two decades, the Black Heritage Society’s “Original” MLK, Jr. Parade found itself in competition with the MLK Grande Parade and it resulted in a public spectacle involving everything from accusations to lawsuits. It was nasty.

Now, in 2019 that issue has seemingly been put to bed, as Turner made the call to focus on unity in the community as a means to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King. The Black Heritage Society, through a collective partnership with the Houston Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade Foundation, Inc., will host the 41st Annual “Original” MLK, Jr. Birthday Parade on Monday, January 21, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Celebrations will begin in the heart of downtown Houston at Smith and Lamar.

Houstonians and visitors from all over will get the chance to collectively ring in the New Year and honor the legacy of Dr. King with a commemorative parade and community activities.

“The City of Houston will honor the legacy of Dr. King by uniting for one official MLK Day Parade in 2019,” said Turner. “I want the parade to be a celebration of our diversity and represent the values Dr. King preached during his lifetime. Houstonians have proven time and again that we can count on each other, so I am asking everyone to participate in this parade and help promote a positive event. In the words of Dr. King, ‘the time is always right to do what is right.”

With a theme of unity and inclusion, this year’s parade will hinge on these famous words of Dr. King: “The time is always right to do what is right.”

The Black Heritage Society anticipates that this year’s celebration will be one of the largest in the organization’s history – with an anticipated attendance of over 40,000 plus participants across Houston and the U.S.

“With the support of the City of Houston and the Mayor, the Black Heritage Society will be able to fully carry out Dr. King’s legacy to bring about change by promoting peace, service and equality in this great city,” said Mr. Sylvester Brown, Operations Manager for the Black Heritage Society. “Our parade enables us to remember Dr. King’s meaningful activism and reconnect with one another, as we celebrate in true Houston style.”

This year will also mark the first parade without Mr. Duncantell, who was a longtime community advocate and the founder of the Black Heritage Society.

In 1974, Ovide Duncantell created and became Founder and Executive Director of the Black Heritage Society Inc., emerging as one of the driving forces behind the renaming of a major thoroughfare to Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard. The street ran through a predominantly African American neighborhood.

Mr. Duncantell’s zeal, persistence and enthusiasm resulted in the mobilization of the community in favor of South Park Boulevard becoming Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard.

The Reverend Martin Luther (“Daddy “) King, Sr., was so impressed by the Black Heritage Society fervent energy and gesture of respect for his deceased son, that he made a personal appearance at the Street Name Change and served as the Black Heritage Society’s first MLK Parade “Grand Marshal,” on January 21, 1978. The street was christened by a citywide parade down the newly named boulevard. Making a pact and promise to Dr. King’s father, Mr. Duncantell and the Black Heritage Society conducted the annual “original” MLK Parade in Houston ever since, making it the first MLK parade in the nation.

The parade and pre-celebration activities are officially licensed by the King Center’s Intellectual Property Management (“IPM”) of Atlanta, GA.

This year’s parade celebration is part of a full weekend of festivities and community service projects with a focus on recognizing the life and legacy of beloved civil rights leader, the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The schedule of activities will kick off on Thursday, January 17, 2019, and continue throughout the holiday weekend. The entire celebration will showcase a variety of marching bands, decorated floats, dance teams, military and ROTC groups, first responders, city and county officials, VIP guest appearances and notable organizations from around the world. Immediately following the parade, the party will move next door for the 3rd Annual MLK, Jr. Taste of Houston festival, located in lots B and C of Minute Maid Park in Downtown Houston.

The family-friendly experience is an upbeat blend of popular cuisines and desserts, artwork, kid-friendly activities and live musical performances.

Attendance for both events will be free to the general public.

An official lineup of community events and projects will be announced soon. Registration for this year’s parade, including parade entry, volunteering, festival vending and sponsorship opportunities are now open to the general public.

For more information, please call 713-236-1700 or visit the official website at www.blackheritagesociety.org.