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MLK Jr. Day Virtual Celebrations Held Throughout Western Kentucky


  Organizations, local governments and other institutions throughout western Kentucky held virtual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrations and events Monday to honor the legacy and messages of the civil rights leader, many focusing on how to implement King’s words in the present day. 

Madisonville held its 35th Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Wreath Laying Service broadcasted online from the city council chambers with a limited group of people due to COVID-19 restrictions. The audience heard from city officials speak about what King means to them. Madisonville Human Resources Director Lynn Owens said the civil rights leader’s position as a pastor and parent resonated with him, and he urged those listening to keep fighting the “uphill battle” against systemic racism. 


“So I just ask you as a nation — where are we with loving one another? Do we need improvement?” Owens said. “Where are we with walking hand-in-hand for justice and equality for all people?”


The speaker for the Paducah-McCracken County NAACP’s virtual celebration also reflected on King’s legacy, but had more specific calls for action moving forward. Knoxville Area Urban League President and CEO Phyllis Nichols asked the local NAACP chapter and others listening about what the possibilities could be if the community rallied around goals such as decent and safe affordable healthcare and access to jobs providing living wages. 


“On this day that we celebrate Dr. King and his great dream of a vibrant, multiracial community, let us make sure that we don’t lose sight of the dream,” Nichols said. “My challenge to you is to continue to celebrate the day that others have worked so hard for it to become a reality. Let us not be weary in our efforts, and let’s commit to doing whatever we can.”


She said that action can take multiple forms, including getting involved in local schools and voting in every election. 


At Murray State University’s virtual celebration, multiple university administrators spoke about how the message of the civil rights leader relates to the university community, standing in front of the Martin Luther King, Jr. monument on campus. The local government leadership then issued a proclamation honoring the federal holiday before the keynote speaker, Indiana-based pastor Kevin Woodgett, spoke to the virtual audience. 


Credit Screenshot / Youtube
Murray State University President Bob Jackson speaks at the university's virtual celebration.

“It takes love in order to move the obstacles that stand in your way of change,” Woodgett said. “It takes love to actually go against and look at your choices and find whether or not they were good or they were bad.” 


Woodgett asked those listening if they would “choose love over hatred” to overcome the differences and obstacles in their communities and lives. The celebration concluded with a recording of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. 


"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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