King remembered in Lexington

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By Luke Glaser

Forty years ago, in a city that once had a 25 percent slave population, in a city once plagued by segregation and divided by color, a candlelight vigil was held on the campus of the University of Kentucky.

The candlelight vigil will occur again with a larger commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday.

Congress made the third Monday in January a national holiday in 1983, but Lexington has been celebrating King’s birthday much longer than that, said Chester Grundy, director of UK’s Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center.

This year the holiday will be celebrated with a march and a ceremony titled “Monumental Moments.”

Grundy said the name is derived from the fact that 2012 marks the anniversary of the celebration in Lexington, the 25th anniversary of the national holiday, the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial and the centennial of the birth of singer and civil rights activist Mahalia Jackson.

In 1983, a UK graduate student named Trent Tucker wrote a play about Jackson, one of the premiere gospel singers of her time who sang at King’s funeral. The musical, titled “Mahalia,” was a smash hit that sold out every performance.

In a tribute to the singer, three original cast members will sing numbers from the show at the celebration.

The event begins with a march at 10 a.m., starting at Heritage Hall at the Lexington Civic Center. Dorneshia Thomas, a psychology junior, will be marching.

Thomas is president of the CATalyst Coalition, a student group committed to diversity and social justice.

“We are participating because Dr. King was a participant in social justice and was passionate about it,” Thomas said. “It is an honor to participate in his name.”

The ceremony will also host speakers, including UK President Eli Capilouto.

“Seeking justice and creating a community that has inclusiveness as a value central to our identity is something that must be lived every day,” Capilouto said in an email to the Kernel. “The events around MLK Day should reinforce our commitment to those values and that mission.”

The keynote speaker will be Marc Lamont Hill, who Grundy describes as a “young hip-hop intellectual.”

Grundy encourages students to make the holiday something more than just a day off school.

“The purpose of a holiday is to inspire us and give us something to come together around,” Grundy said. “It represents the highest ideals of democracy: peace, brotherhood, equity and mutuality.”

CATalyst will have a bus leaving the Center for Student Involvement at 9:15 a.m. Monday for students interested in joining. For more information, contact [email protected]