A shot from a past Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade. Photo via Visit Baltimore.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade, a Baltimore tradition for years, will not be held in 2023.

The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA), which produces the annual event, issued a media advisory recommending that the slain civil rights leader be honored by a “day of service” rather than a parade down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The parade “has not been held since January 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions in 2021 and 2022,” the advisory said. “Now, in 2023, it is a conscious decision to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy through a day of service rather than a parade.”

BOPA is the official “events producer” for the City of Baltimore, according to its website, promotionandarts.org. Its advisory noted that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service.

“So, to honor Dr. King — and follow his example — we encourage all Baltimoreans to participate in this year’s National Day of Service on January 16, 2023, by signing up to volunteer with a local, regional, or national organization.,” the advisory said. “You can also bring people together to create and register your own project, or even donate to a cause of your choice.”

BOPA noted that a list of local volunteer opportunities can be found at https://americorps.gov/newsroom/events/mlk-day. Also, “be sure to follow Mayor Brandon M. Scott (@MayorBMScott) and BOPA (@promoandarts) on social media for more ways you can honor Dr. King’s legacy by taking an active role in improving your community,” the agency suggested.

Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello, who chairs the council’s Ways and Means Committee and whose district includes part of the parade route, said he believes it’s possible to have both a parade and a day of service, as Baltimore has done in the past.

“BOPA in cancelling the 2023 MLK Jr. Parade justified it as a conscious decision to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy through a day of service rather than a parade,” he said in an email message. “A parade and a day of service are not mutually exclusive. In addition, BOPA is, yet again, in clear violation of their contractual obligation to the City of Baltimore. I look forward to having a public discussion on this matter in excruciating detail in front of the City Council’s Ways & Means Committee.”

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.