In 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.
The 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
Joe 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.