‘A better day.’ Martin Luther King Jr. Day Freedom March held in downtown Lexington


Travis Fannon

Members of the Lexington community march in the MLK Freedom march on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

Alexis Baker, Reporter

Members of the Lexington community rallied for the annual Freedom March to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday afternoon.

This year’s march was the 50th anniversary of Lexington’s MLK Day observance. Participants made their way through downtown Lexington, singing and holding posters that read “Black Lives Matter,” “My Brother’s Keeper” and “Stop the Violence.”

The march started on West Vine Street, traveled a few streets of downtown and eventually returned to Rupp Arena.

Many organizations also walked with posters and banners representing their institution. The Justice Resource Center, Lexington African American Sports Hall of Fame and The Lexington School made an appearance.

Lexington’s fire chief, Jason Wells, has participated in the Freedom March for several years and said the community can be the change that society needs to see to live out Dr. King’s dreams.

“The Lexington Fire Department is proud to be a part of this event,” Wells said. “We’re proud to hopefully help set the standard in our community for what diversity, equity and inclusion can look like.”

The Freedom March is a tradition for other members of the community as well. Roger Holsey, a representative for the Justice Resource Center, has been marching for over 20 years. This year he was carrying a sign that said “No justice, no peace.” He said that he has had the sign for years and has used it for protests in both Lexington and Frankfort.

James Pelfrey, a veteran from Eastern Kentucky, has lived all over the United States and said Lexington is the most racist and prejudiced city.

“I was evicted from my house because I had a Black guy named Moses living there,” Pelfrey said. “I’m here to represent all of the Black people that have been mistreated over the years.”

Pelfrey has been homeless for nine months and said he has his mind set on bettering his community.

Wanda Wallen, a local Lexingtonian, has been marching for five years, and this year she spent her time chanting in her megaphone.

“[The march means] a bunch of people of many, many colors walking and marching together for the same reason, which is equality, freedom and justice for all,” Wallen said.

The march brought participants from across the state. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear walked at the front of the crowd alongside UK president Eli Capilouto.

“This is an incredible event of people coming together trying to live out what Dr. King preached every day: being together, standing up for equality, walking arm and arm towards justice and that better day,” Beshear said.