The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Hundreds braved snow for Lexington’s MLK parade

CARE Rockbridge’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade was started as a peaceful response to Lee-Jackson Day celebrations
Abby Kim
Over 600 W&L community members and Lexington locals gathered for the annual Marthin Luther King Jr. parade despite snow and freezing temperatures.

Hundreds of students, faculty and community members joined CARE Rockbridge’s eigth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in Lexington despite snowfall and freezing temperatures.

The parade took place on the morning of Jan. 15, the civil rights activist’s birthday. Two days before, Confederate sympathizers had gathered on the same streets to celebrate Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

“Lexington gets lots of attention for the fact that in some places and among some people the Confederacy is fondly remembered and celebrated,” CARE Rockbridge co-founder Robin LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc said that every year, people come from across Virginia and neighboring states including North Carolina to celebrate the Confederate generals. These visitors increase the presence of local white Confederate “heritage” groups, she said.

“These visitors line our streets with enormous Confederate flags, symbols not just of a violent civil war but also of the violence of the Jim Crow south,” she said.

According to LeBlanc, the annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade was started in 2017 as a nonviolent response to the Confederate celebrations.

In a Facebook post written before the first parade seven years ago, LeBlanc wrote that parade participants would not be engaging with flaggers or hecklers of any kind, and that the parade’s internal organizers had a commitment to nonviolence and safety.

“Walking together in peace, love, and joy down our streets tomorrow, we will shore each other up against this psychological violence,” wrote LeBlanc. “We will remind each other and the world what self-government is really about.”

Since then, hundreds have gathered annually on King’s birthday to remind themselves of what he fought for, she said.

“Every year, the CARE MLK parade turns out hundreds more participants, overwhelmingly local, to remind us all that we have come and continue to move from the United States’ slaveholding past,” LeBlanc said. “We stand against all forms of discrimination and for real equality for all members of our community. We stand for the power of nonviolence against nostalgia for a violent past.”

Many students and student organizations turned out to participate in the parade, carrying signs calling for peace and an end to racism, homophobia and gender inequality.

“I really liked that people were joining in and chanting,” Daisy Barron, ’26, said. “I think especially the way the parade was organized, it was less of a political event and more of just trying to form community. I remember there was a chant about love, community and justice, so I think it was just a really good gathering moment for everyone who was there.”

Despite the snow, LeBlanc said last Monday’s turnout remained plentiful.

“This year we had more than 600 participants,” LeBlanc said, “fewer than in some years, but a huge turnout considering the snowy weather that kept some participants from traveling from more remote parts of the county to downtown Lexington.”

LeBlanc said there were many moving pieces in place that allowed the parade to proceed safely and smoothly.

The Rockbridge Area Transportation Services’ van helped bring participants with mobility issues to the parade. Sweet Treats and Lexington Presbyterian Church also offered free soup and hot cocoa to attendees, and many volunteers helped serve as parade marshals. The Lexington Police Department also worked hard to keep the event safe, said LeBlanc.

“Spirits were high, and again we saw the immensity of our collective commitment to a diverse and just community,” LeBlanc said.

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