Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Week Celebration

MLK Unity Week photo

Unity Celebration, 2016In 1986, the MLK Unity Week Celebration started with just a group of people gathered around the flagpole outside of City Hall to reflect on the words and purpose of Dr. King’s life. From the seeds sown there, Spartanburg's annual celebration has grown to include an annual gathering attended by thousands each year, and has included such notable keynote speakers as James Earl Jones, Ted Kennedy Jr., Dr. Mae Jemison, Morris Dees, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Miss America 2004 Erica Dunlap.

The Unity Week celebration includes a Unity Walk, a Day of Service, and the annual capstone celebration event on Monday night. See the schedule on this page to the right for complete details. The MLK Unity Week is a centerpiece of the City's Be One initiative, which includes a variety of community diversity events throughout the year.

Unity Walk

Unity Walk, 2016The City of Spartanburg’s Department of Community Services created the Unity Walk in 2002 as a means of highlighting how Spartanburg's diversity and unity make us a stronger community. The Unity Walk celebrates and renews our shared sense of belonging in a place that collectively we are proud to call home. We encourage all to come out and as a city join hands, walk as one, and continue to recognize and celebrate diversity.

This year's walk is Saturday, January 14, at 10 a.m. and will start from First Presbyterian Church, 393 E. Main Street in Downtown Spartanburg.

Day of Service

The City of Spartanburg and the United Way of the Piedmont have partnered to help further Dr. King’s legacy. The Day of Service on Monday, January 16, is a living embodiment of Dr. King's belief that “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”

Celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as it was intended: not a day off, but a day on. Follow this link to register for volunteer opportunities.

Unity Celebration Keynote Speaker

The Honorable Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Mayor of Charleston, 1975-2016

Joseph Riley HeadshotJoe Riley is widely considered one of the most visionary and effective governmental leaders in America. First elected Mayor in December 1975, Mayor Riley served an unprecedented 10 terms.

Under his leadership, Charleston increased its commitment to racial harmony and progress, achieved a substantial decrease in crime, experienced a remarkable revitalization of its historic downtown business district, supported the creation and growth of Spoleto Festival USA, added significantly to the City’s park system including the highly celebrated Waterfront Park, developed nationally acclaimed affordable housing, and experienced unprecedented growth in Charleston’s size and population. Mayor Riley led a city government with an impressive record of innovation in public safety, housing, arts and culture, children’s issues, and economic revitalization and development. Today, the City of Charleston is recognized as one of the most livable and progressive cities in the United States.

A recipient of numerous awards, Mayor Riley received the Outstanding Mayors Award from the National Urban Coalition and the Distinguished Citizen Award by the National Association of Realtors. He received many awards for urban and community design and was named the 1991 Municipal Leader of the Year by American City & County. He has received the Order of the Palmetto, was named South Carolinian of the Year, and was given the National Medal of Arts from President Obama and the 1982 Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award by the S.C. Arts Commission for outstanding contributions to the arts. Along with Governor Nikki Haley, he was the joint recipient of the Riley Institute's 2015 Wilkins Award for Excellence in Civic Leadership.

After 40 years as Mayor in January of 2016, he joined the faculty of The Citadel as the first occupant of an endowed Professorship of American Government & Public Policy created in his honor with the mission of documenting, and teaching, lessons of principled, bipartisan, and effective leadership in pursuit of excellence for the public good. 

Who to Know

Events Schedule

Monday, January 9

Gather at the Flagpole

5 p.m., City Hall

Back to where it all started! The City's first MLK celebration was a simple gathering at the flag pole in front of City Hall. Join us as City Council revives this tradition with a message of unity prior to its regularly scheduled meeting at 5:30 p.m.

Friday, Jaunary 13

First Annual MLK Candlelight Vigil

6 p.m., Barnet Park Pavilion

Sponsored by Xi Theta Lamda & Upsilon Alpha Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

Saturday, January 14

Unity Walk

10 a.m., First Presbyterian Church of Spartanburg, 393 E. Main Street. View full walk route below.

Monday, January 16

Day of Service

Sponsored by United Way of the Piedmont

Celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as it was intended: not a day off, but a day on. Follow this link to register for volunteer opportunities.

Unity Celebration

6:30 p.m., Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium 

flickr Photostream 2017 Mayor's Unity Breakfast


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award

Every year, as part of our Unity Week Celebration, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award is given to an organization or business promoting positive relations among the diverse people in our community. 

The deadline for nominees for the 2017 Humanitarian Award is Jan. 2, 2017. Call Kathy Hill at 864.596.2905 or send an email to mlkunityweek@cityofspartanburg.org for more information, or download the nomination form below.

Humanitarian Award Nomination

Sounds of Diversity Choir and Orchestra

Are you a musician or singer? Be a part of our Unity Week Celebration on January 16 as a member of our Sounds of Diversity Choir and Orchestra.

Call 864.596.2905 or send an email to mlkunityweek@cityofspartanburg.org to learn more.

Wofford College Unity Week Events

For more information on events being held by Wofford College during Unity Week, follow the link below.

Wofford Unity Week