Fayette County

Thousands march through downtown Lexington in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Civic leaders lead marchers through downtown during the 44th annual Freedom March to celebrate the legacy of civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Lexington, Ky., Monday, Jan. 16, 2017.
Civic leaders lead marchers through downtown during the 44th annual Freedom March to celebrate the legacy of civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Lexington, Ky., Monday, Jan. 16, 2017.

Thousands of people gathered Monday morning to march through downtown Lexington in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The crowd held banners, chanted and sang songs as they moved down Vine Street, crossed over Rose Street and returned down East Main Street to Heritage Hall for a program.

Denise Henderson of Lexington said this group was bigger than she’d seen it in the past.

“I’m out here for the cause of Martin Luther King and what he stood for, in justice and freedom,” Henderson said. “It is bigger this year, and I think that’s due to what’s going on in our nation currently. I see a lot of people wanting to unite, trying to get to know each other from different races and understand each other.”

Henderson said it felt good to see so many people come together to celebrate King’s message, but that she knew some are uneasy about what the next year will bring.

“I know everyone doesn’t agree with (president-elect Donald) Trump being in office,” she said. “But I’m hoping he will do our country some good. I’m willing to give him a chance, you know. God is always in control. It doesn’t matter about him being in office, it’s about who looks over all of us.”

The political climate and events of 2016 were also prevalent in the remarks of guest speaker the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day program following the march. Moss is the pastor of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ.

“We make claims that we will ‘make America great again.’ There’s a problematic relationship in the wording of that,” Moss said. “Because it is making the statement that the past is better than the present. Because if you say make it great again, my question is: what year?”

Moss went on to say people should strive to make America “greater, not great again.” In order to reach that goal, Moss said people will have to recognize that black lives matter.

“It excites me when I see young people who are standing up, saying these words. But I kind of get annoyed, because there’s always somebody saying, ‘well, don’t you know all lives matter.’ And they miss the point, because that’s why I said black lives matter. I say black lives matter because all lives don’t matter. If all lives mattered then I wouldn’t have to say black lives matter.”

Moss said people will need to focus on the “micro” before they can move to the “macro.”

“It builds revolutionary relationships,” Moss said. “Because when we know black lives matter then we make our way to Standing Rock to stand with our Native American brothers. When we stand with our Native American brothers and sisters, we stand on the border with those who are brown and say that brown lives matter. When we stand with them, we stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters to say that Muslim lives matter. When we stand with them, we stand with our sisters to say that we must dismantle patriarchy, because sisters’ lives matter. I’m here to let you know that everybody has been made in the image of God and our lives matter.”

Mayor Jim Gray, Lexington Police Chief Mark Barnard, University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear were among the marchers downtown Monday morning.

Remarks from Gray and Capilouto were played by video at the following program, each addressing a need to work together to effect change.

Before their remarks, a slide show review of 2016 was played, highlighting the events at Standing Rock, the Black Lives Matter Movement, the global refugee crisis and violent extremism.

“There is a human tendency to think and believe that someone else should do this work,” said Ashley C. Smith, master of ceremonies at the program. “If 2016 taught us anything, it is that we must hold that mirror, look at ourselves and find a way to advance the cause of justice.”

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