Lexington event carries on King’s legacy


President Lee Todd leads the march holding a commemoration banner with other Lexington officials including Mayor Jim Newberry (center) for Martin Luther King, Jr. day in downtown Lexington on Jan. 18, 2010. Photo by Brandon Goodwin

By Drew Teague

Many in Lexington will come together Monday to celebrate the lie of Martin Luther King Jr.

UK is working with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and other supporters to put on a large-scale public program remembering King and his mission.

Chester Grundy, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center and co-chairperson of the MLK Holiday Planning Committee, says this is a one-of-a-kind event.

“This King Holiday Celebration here is really, really unique,” Grundy said. “I’m saying this is rather really unique even on a national scale.”

Grundy said UK has been having a commemorative program about King since a few years after his assassination, and it is slowly growing bigger with the times and more support.

“The celebration here goes back 39 years. We started celebrating it just a few years after Dr. King’s assassination, which was in 1968,” Grundy said. “In the early 1970s we established this program and it began as a small real modest candlelight vigil on campus.”

With times and people changing and moving farther away from having lived in King’s time, changes with the event came to help connect with the new generations and large crowds of close to 4,000 people at times.

“Over the course of the first ten years, it evolved into a partnership between the city of Lexington and the University of Kentucky,” Grundy said. “The support grew and we are now a city-wide celebration. It draws people from around the region and beyond.”

Grundy said Monday has two main events, taking place in the morning to celebrate.

“There are always the two components to it,” Grundy said. “There’s the march, that takes place at 10 o’clock, then there’s what we call the Commemorative Program that follows that at 11.”

The March starts at Heritage Hall and makes a circle around Vine Street, then goes back to Heritage Hall, Grundy said. It takes about 20 minutes.

Nancy Hall, a social work sophomore and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., said her sorority will participate in the walk. She said the event is a good way to reconnect with the times of King’s mission.

“It just lets you remember and reflect on all the different things and the progress that we’ve made from then to now,” Hall said. “It’s a humbling experience for my sorority, and it just takes us to a place where we can be thankful and that we can carry the torch on and not let it die—not let outside experiences influence us to not forget it.”

The program has had many big-name people come to be the key speaker at the program, but this year they are changing things some to keep up with the changing generations. Instead of having a speaker, Daniel Beaty will be performing his Obie Award winning one-man play titled “EMERGENCY.”

“It’s an effort to keep it interesting, new,” Grundy said. “One thing that convinced me [to have Beaty perform] was we presented Daniel here at UK last February as part of African American History Month Program, and I was so impressed that I just wanted to put him before a larger audience.”

Grundy explained how Beaty’s life was timely to the mission of King and explained how Beaty became who he was through difficulties, when even though you initially may not think you can.

“When you’re able to really connect to a grander vision of yourself, then you’re able to do things that perhaps you yourself weren’t sure you could do,” Grundy said.

For more information about the events, speakers, and other Martin Luther King Jr. Day events visit www.uky.edu/mlk.