For third year in a row, Baltimore cancels MLK Day parade, encourages focus on service; Mfume calls decision ‘disgraceful’

The city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Parade has been canceled again this year, the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts announced in a news release Thursday.

The parade, an annual event for decades before the coronavirus pandemic, has not been held since 2020.


BOPA, which has been under pressure recently over the continued cancellation of other Baltimore events such as Artscape and the Baltimore Book Festival, said the parade would not be held out of “a conscious decision to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy through a day of service rather than a parade.”

The news release noted that the federal holiday for the civil rights leader, which is set for Jan. 16, is designated as a National Day of Service. The quasi-city agency said that to follow in King’s example, Baltimoreans should sign up to volunteer or make a donation to a cause.


Democratic U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who represents the 7th Congressional District, which includes neighborhoods that border Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, said the decision to cancel the parade was disappointing.

“It is disrespectful to tell entire communities that there won’t be an MLK parade less than two weeks before the celebration of his birthday and equally disrespectful to suggest that he can’t be celebrated through both a day of service and a community parade,” the congressman said in a statement Thursday evening.

“BOPA is going down the wrong path by making this decision, thereby setting the stage for there never to be an MLK celebration parade again in Baltimore. It’s disgraceful,” Mfume said.

The last time the event was held was Jan. 20, 2020, when the city marked the parade’s 20th anniversary.

It was unclear from the release whether the parade will ever be held again. When asked to clarify, a spokeswoman for BOPA said in an email to The Baltimore Sun that the organization would “not be making any additional statements at this time.”