Lexington takes to the streets for annual MLK march

Thousands of marchers took to downtown streets during the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom March on Monday, January 20, 2020, in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Rick Childress | Staff

Hailey Peters

The Lexington community gathered Monday in a display of unity to commemorate the life and legacy of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The miles-long celebration was a collaborative effort presented by the University of Kentucky and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. Since classes at UK were canceled for the holiday, several prominent administrative members of the university’s staff were present, including Provost David Blackwell and President Eli Capilouto.

“[Today is] a day to remember the legacy of Dr. King,” said UK Spokesperson Jay Blanton. “It reminds us of all the work we still have to do to create a truly diverse and inclusive community of belonging and love for everybody.”

Terry Allen, UK’s Assistant Vice President for Institutional Equity within UK’s Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity, is the head organizer of the event and has been for several years.

“This event is unity,” Allen said. “I have spoken so many times about a sense of community, a sense of hope. It’s…people coming together from all over and from all walks of life for a common purpose, and that is to commemorate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.”

After a large crowd of hundreds of marchers gathered in front of Heritage Hall within downtown’s Lexington Center, the march was led down West Vine Street in the early morning snow flurries. Marchers held signs promoting everything from gun safety, equality of race and income to reproductive healthcare.

As marchers passed various office buildings and construction sites downtown, workers within would stop what they were doing to wave and clap at the march, cheering on the participants.

Stevie Lyndek, a senior social work major at UK, said that she believed the purpose of the march was to remind people why the Civil Rights movement happened and that the work is still not done.

“I’m here for the same reason that I think most of us are here,” Lyndek said. “We all want to honor Dr. King. I think that if more people in the world were like him that we could collectively be in a much better place each and every day.”

After just under an hour, participants reconvened inside of Heritage Hall, where they took in a musical tribute from the Lexington-born neo-soul artist DONNIE.

The main highlight of the presentation in Heritage Hall was the keynote address presented by Rev. Delman L. Coates, Senior Pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md. Coates also serves as the president of the national policy board known as the Black Church Center for Justice & Equality.

Coates’ speech was called “The Fierce Urgency of NOW!” In his speech, he echoed Allen’s mission for the holiday event. Coates emphasized the importance of the holiday is to remind every person in America that the work done by King decades ago was only the start of what people should be focusing on doing every day in order to bring King’s dream of peace and equality to life.