Serving Martin Luther King’s legacy

Participants in the Martin Luther King Parade march down Main Street during the Martin Luther King Commemoration at the Lexington Center Heritage Hall on West Main Street in Lexington, KY on Thursday, January 19, 2015. Photo by Taylor Pence

By Anne Halliwell

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At the front of Monday’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Freedom March, UK President Eli Capilouto held a banner with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Lexington mayor Jim Gray.

“As far as I can remember, the president has been at every (march) without fail,” said UK assistant vice president Anthany Beatty.

Beatty said UK’s reputation in regard to diversity suffered during the 40s and 50s.

Having administration represent the university at the MLK march is good for a community that still remembers the period before UK allowed the same opportunities to African Americans, he said.

Beatty said he and his wife, Eunice, a retired UK faculty member, march in almost every parade and helped fund the 2014 event.

“Eunice and I just feel it’s important to be involved,” Beatty said. “The history of what happened to our country … our kids and grandkids learned about by just reading. This is a way to be involved.”

The parade stretched for more than a block as it wound its way around Vine and Main streets. Participants carried banners for local organizations like the National Pan-Hellenic Council and markers of recent civil rights issues, like “I can’t breathe” t-shirts.

March coordinator Terry Allen said 37 organizations registered to march in advance.

“Everyone is welcome and invited, so there are those, then, who simply come,” Allen said.

Allen, UK’s vice president of Institutional Equity, estimated that between two and three thousand people participated in Monday’s event. He added that the march represents everyone from Lexington and university leaders to “those who march in complete anonymity.”

“It was a lovely event,” he said. “Just unity at its best.”

Media arts and studies freshman Brijan Emerson said she has participated in the annual MLK March for 15 or 16 years.

“(I participate) to know my history and show support,” Emerson said. “I just come to march with my people.”

Dominic Murphy II, president of the NPHC at UK, wrote in an email to the Kentucky Kernel that many members of the council at UK used the march as a way to give back to the community.

“The march is important to the National Pan-Hellenic Council because not only is Dr. King a member of the Greek community himself, but also because it is a form of service,” Murphy wrote in the email. By participating in the walk each year, different organizations not only continue bringing light to Dr. King’s vision and ideals, but also … bring awareness to those around them and allow them to be educated.”

Murphy added that in the future, he would like to see more involvement by UK, possibly through increased advertisement to spread the word to more organizations that could have been involved.

Before the parade came the Center for Community Outreach’s National Day of Service.

UK students volunteered in more than 14 different sites across Lexington on Saturday for organizations including Habitat for Humanity, the International Book Project and the Hope Lodge, according to a press release from the MLK Center.

Day of Service director Grace-Marie Thompson emailed the Kentucky Kernel that almost 200 students took part.

Kendra Oo, who participated in the Day of Service, said sorting food at God’s Pantry Food Bank gave her a sense of accomplishment.

“What I really liked is that we all started out together, so it was like teamwork,” the dietetics sophomore said. “Everyone who liked to do service (and) volunteering was all together.”

According to the Facebook page for the Campus Kitchen at UK, the group that went to God’s Pantry sorted more than 20,000 pounds of food in about two hours.

“We talked about, like, hunger shouldn’t be an issue when there are the resources available,” Oo said. “This is what is important.”