Actor Danny Glover calls for social justice

Participants in the Lexington Martin Luther King Day parade march downtown on Monday, January 18, 2016 in Lexington, Ky.

Cheyene Miller

In his speech celebrating the life and works of Martin Luther King Jr., actor Danny Glover spoke to a crowded Heritage Hall about the importance of social justice.

Glover called King, “someone who had such incredible skills of prophecy,” and said he keeps several of King’s books with him at all times. He recounted his childhood in San Francisco, spending time in Birmingham and New York City, and how he regarded King as a hero while growing up.

Glover, who is famous for his roles in films like “The Color Purple” and the “Lethal Weapon” series, read an excerpt from King’s famous 1967 “A Time to Break Silence” speech, which was written in response to the Vietnam War.

Glover spoke as part of Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at the Lexington Convention Center. The event began with a march followed by a commemorative program in which Glover was the keynote speaker.

During a one-to-one with Msiba Ann Beard Grundy, Glover said it is up to this generation to solve pending social issues such as climate change and the mass incarceration of young black men.

“We have to find a way in which this planet works for all of us,” Glover said. “It’s not a radical concept, it’s a human concept.”

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray attended the event and was appreciative that Glover chose to be in Lexington on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

“Talk about inspiring, Danny Glover is inspiring,” Gray said. “He’s an intellectual, he’s an entertainer … on so many levels he illustrated what this day should be about for all of us.”

Also speaking at the event was UK President Eli Capilouto, who addressed the controversial mural depicting slavery in Memorial Hall, and the ensuing debate that garnered national attention.

Capilouto said the mural brings out different reactions, with some viewing it as a historical work of art and others viewing it as a painful reminder of a brutal period of American history. While working on a resolution for the mural, Capilouto also presented initiatives intended to make UK more racially inclusive.

He touted having an 11 percent black freshman class compared to Kentucky’s high school graduation rate of eight percent black students, as well as a doubling in funding for minority scholarships.

“While we have set ambitious goals, we need to hold ourselves accountable for those goals,” said Capilouto, who called for more diversity in UK classrooms and among UK professors.

Among these initiatives are naming a new residence hall after Lyman T. Johnson, who opened the door for black students with his legal victory in 1949, and building monuments dedicated to the first black football players at UK.

“I think it’s commendable that the president is always thinking forward, he’s always thinking about how he can make improvements, and I think this is another illustration of that initiative,” Gray said.

Miss Kentucky, Clark Janell Davis, a Lexington native, sang several spirituals at the event to the piano tunes of UK associate professor Cliff Jackson.

“Two of the pieces she just learned last week,” said Jackson, a vocal coach with the UK Opera Theatre. “So to be able to get up and perform in front of this many people and not fall apart is a testament to her talent.”