Chapel Hill and UNC have been celebrating Martin Luther King Junior day since before the bill was passed to make it a federal holiday in 1983. Every year, the town encourages people to come together, converse, march and even sing.

Continuing the tradition with past years, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro and UNC chapters of the NAACP held a rally, march and church service at First Baptist Church.

Northside Elementary School principal Corretta Sharpless spoke at the rally. She said battling injustice is important, and everyone should do it every day, not just on MLK Day.

“Overcoming means that I don’t look back on the struggle with tears,” she said. “But I understand that overcoming means that I can, with fortitude, and resilience understand that yesterday has no more dominion over today.”

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue was also at the event to ensure everything, particularly the march, went smoothly with no one getting hurt. Blue said The Chapel Hill Police Department did something new this year, and closed all traffic lanes during the march on Franklin Street from the post office to the First Baptist Church.

“For a number of years we’ve supported this event on this very important day,” he said. “This year we’ve made a commitment to put even more resources out and provide the level of inclusiveness deserving of the event.”

County Commissioner Penny Rich also participated in the march and says MLK day is an important day to think about inclusiveness within the community.

“It’s one of those days that we all have to sit back and think and remember and really do some soul-searching,” she said.

Minister Michelle Laws spoke at the worship service following the march. She said this year is a particularly important year to think about the words of Martin Luther King Jr., as a new president takes over.

“God wants us to understand,” she said. “He placed Dr. King in our midst as a voice and as an instrument to do his work. And there is unfinished business so we come to re-commit to that unfinished work and that unfinished business.”

UNC will continue the celebration in memory of Martin Luther King Jr. with a keynote lecture from journalist Soledad O’Brien this evening at 7:30. Tickets are free, but reservations are required. Click here to reserve a ticket.