Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrated in Winchester

Published 10:06 am Thursday, January 18, 2024

Winchester is dedicated to celebratingMartin Luther King Jr. Day each year.

Though a snowy and frigid Monday threatened to cause problems, much of the day unfolded as hoped, though the annual march was postponed.

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast at St. Agatha Academy was among other events.

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First Baptist Church on N. Highland Street hosted lunch for sanitation workers, first responders, and public servants.

As many are aware, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – who was assassinated at 39 years old in 1968 – is considered one of the most prominent leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

Regarding the first event, the Unity Breakfast has occurred regularly at the St. Agatha location for nearly ten years, while occurring in Winchester for over forty years.

Rick Beach, the chairman of this year’s Unity Committee that put on the event, stated it was done through a collaborative effort.

“It’s been an event that we sort of plan a few months ahead of time,” Beach said. “We really start on this, I guess, in [around] September….just getting things together.”

Several local government officials and other prominent leaders from the Winchester community, both current and former, were present.

Among them were Mayor JoEllen Reed, Clark County Judge-Executive Les Yates, Clark County Public Schools Superintendent. Dustin Howard, Deatra Newell, Clark County Circuit Court Clerk Martha Miller, Clark County Attorney William Elkins, nd Magistrate Robert Blanton.

At the event, not only was their breakfast, but Father Jim Kinney offered a message and prayer beforehand, followed by Eric Smith voluntarily leading the crowd in the singing of “We Shall Overcome,” a gospel song and, at times, a protest song that was heavily associated with the Civil Rights Movement.

Shortly afterward, following breakfast and recognition of various city and county officials, the day’s keynote speaker was introduced.

Donna Carter, who has a significant background in human resources and is the founder of the Clark County Equity Coalition, addressed the crowd.

“Equity is defined as justice according to natural laws or rights,” Carter said. “Specifically, freedom from bias or favoritism.”

Relating the story of how she felt her freedom being taken away during prior personal struggles, including drug addiction, Carter opined that others valuing her without bias played a significant role in her personal growth.

She also used one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s quotes when speaking about the ideals he set forth for others.

“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the true goal of education”, Dr. King had said. “The complete education gives one not only the power of concentration but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”

After the event, Carter said she hopes Dr. King’s legacy will further impact the community.

“I think he provides us a framework for what it means when people come together and work”, she stated. “If you look at the March on Washington, it was people from all over. Different races [and] different ages…came together to create that walk and get that walk accomplished. I think his legacy is what I see for Winchester…that we can come together.”

Certainly, not least, the event saw awards given out.

For her lifetime of work as an educator and much more, Winchester native and best-selling author Dr. Maisha L. Jack was presented with the Humanitarian Award, a key to the city and gained recognition as a Kentucky Colonel.

Though she could not appear, Austina McCaffrey Bruton accepted such rewards in her honor.

The event also recognized different grade-level winners of school projects – including drawings and essays – dedicated to recognizing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Winners included Holly Crowe of Shearer Elementary School, Ella Howard of Justice Elementary School, Aubri McVey of Strode Station Elementary School, Molly Mathieu of Conkwright Elementary School, Maci Ingram of Baker Intermediate School, Benton Rogers of Robert D. Campbell Junior High School and Kadin Ore of George Rogers Clark High School.

At noon, another event took center stage in Winchester.

Inside the gym of First Baptist Church, people were welcomed to a free lunch – with sanitation workers, first responders, and public servants receiving particular attention.

A meal consisting of bread, yams, green beans, fried and grilled chicken, macaroni and cheese, various desserts and more was served.

Pastor Marvin O. King Jr. stated that the reason for honoring such a particular group of individuals was notable.

“We know that when [Dr. King] was assassinated in Memphis….he was there to support sanitation workers and the working conditions that they were experiencing…part of his mission was to be a voice to those who had no voice,” King said. “We just thought that it’s fitting to carry out his legacy and his memory by serving all of our first responders, elected officials, and all those who provide public service to the community.”

Sergeant Monty Corbett of the Winchester Police Department, who also serves as chaplain, attended the event along with other members of the WPD.

“This is a great opportunity to reach out,” Corbett said. “I’m glad that they reached out to us to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, and what he did for civil rights in this country.”

Reed, who also appeared at this event, said that remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and honoring him is essential.

“It’s critical that we remember that because we’ve all come a long way,” Reed said. “For this community to stay together, work together in peace and harmony as Dr. King taught us years ago…I think this day just reinforces that.”