HOUSTON — Plans have been announced for Houston's 44th annual Original Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said the parade is scheduled to run in person this year. It was a big question since last year's event was held virtually due to the pandemic.
Turner strongly encourages anyone attending to get vaccinated, get their booster shot, get tested in advance and wear a mask to the event.
The parade will start at 10 a.m. downtown on Monday, Jan 17. This year's theme is "Be A Drum Major for Justice." Expect to see marching bands, colorful floats and more that will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and Houston as the fourth most diverse city in the U.S.
There will also be a festival downtown after the parade, followed by a Hall of Fame induction and awards banquet and a Gospel Extravaganza.
Anyone that wants to join the parade should register online with the Black Heritage Society or call 281-582-8888.
"January 17th is the time for our country and our community to honor Dr. King and his life's work, which is dedicated to equality and equity in areas like affordable housing, healthcare, equity and voting rights," Turner said.
Watch the highlights of Houston's virtual MLK events from 2021 below:
Who is the 2022 grand marshal for the Original MLK Jr. Day Parade?
Mayor Turner and the Black Heritage Society announced Wednesday that this year's grand marshal will be Vanessa Wyche, director of the NASA Johnson Space Center. She started the job role as the center's first African-American female director.
Wyche's journey has been anything but easy. In an interview in KHOU in 2020, she shared that she was the first person in her family to attend fully integrated schools.
"I as little girl growing up in South Carolina really did not think that I would ever work at Nasa," she said. "I was a Star Trek fan, I knew about space, but there were no space programs near where I grew up."
Mayor Turner said Vanessa Wyche position in NASA reflected "the past and the struggles that we've had in the past, and at the same time, speak to the present and the future in terms of where we are going."
In addition her role as grand marshal, the Original MLK Jr. Day Parade will honor African-American astronauts who have or will be going to space. That includes Jessica Watkins, who will be the first black woman to join to the International Space Station.
Wyche joined the announcement virtually to celebrate her role as marshal as well as the Johnson Space Center's 60th anniversary in Houston.
Editor's Note: The video below was uploaded in Feb 2020 before Wyche became director.