50 years after assassination, Danville march planned to remember MLK

Published 10:01 am Monday, April 2, 2018

Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 39, was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee by escaped convict, James Earl Ray.

Fifty years later, people in the Danville community will honor his legacy of non-violence to bring about social change with a special event titled, “50 Years Later: Remembering and Marching Forward.”

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On Sunday, April 15, from 2 to 5 p.m., there will be an educational march through downtown Danville beginning at Trinity Episcopal Church, then to the Boyle County Courthouse, both on Main Street, and on to Centerpoint Church, located at 116 N. Third St., where excerpts of some of the works written by Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King will be read, and civil rights songs will be performed by the Voices of Praise Choir from First Baptist Church Second and Walnut Streets.

Following the community march, everyone may walk to St. James A.M.E. church on Walnut Street, where a free meal will be served. To make sure there are enough meals, people are asked to call the Boyle County Extension Office at (859) 236-4484 to RSVP by April 9.

Danville City Commissioner and former educator J.H. Atkins said while pondering the tragic end of Dr. King’s life, he was struck at how commercialized the event had become. For example, Atkins said people, “were selling hats, T-shirts and other stuff” commemorating King’s death.

Atkins decided he wanted to teach kids, and adults, about King, so he formed a committee to figure out a special way for the community to focus on King’s legacy.

Kathy Miles, one of the organizers of the march, said they tried to show the local relevance of King’s legacy when planning the walk.

Miles said, “The committee that J.H. pulled together thought that the walk is important for looking back, and looking to the future for what still needs to be done in terms of race relations. If we don’t stop and remember the important people who have shaped our history and reflect on the obstacles they overcame, we may not do our part to overcome today’s obstacles.”

Miles said, “We know that much work and reconciliation still needs to be done to bring about justice and healing in our community, state and country. We have planned the programs at each stop of the walk to help us to remember the past and challenge us to work together for a better future.”

Alethea Price, who is also working on the march, said the 50th anniversary of King’s death is “a moment you don’t want to miss.”

Price said King wasn’t alive when she grew up, “but I definitely grew up learning about all of that because my parents lived through the civil rights movement and they have very vivid accounts they have shared with me before of things they experienced going to school (during segregation) and then when integration happened … They were young adults when Dr. King was assassinated and that was really powerful.”

Price said local march is significant because the community will be marching forward.

“We’re just trying to start a conversation, inspire people and help them understand. Help them remember this legacy, while also continue what (King) started. We’re not trying to get hung up in the past. We’re trying to look forward. What can we be doing now?” Price said.

“Overall, America still’s got a long way to go. I feel comfortable in saying Danville is one of the more progressive areas I’ve ever lived in,” Price said. “… Things could be improved upon, but of course that could be anywhere, and it really depends on the situation.”

She hopes the march on April 15 will help people understand differences are a strength instead of a weakness.

“It’s not a black issue. It’s not,” Price said. “It’s a common misconception whenever we do anything related to Black History Month or anything Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.-related — everyone thinks, ‘Oh, it’s a black issue.’ But it’s an everyone issue. It involves everybody. It wouldn’t be an issue if everybody would understand that.”

More events planned

Atkins is also planning on hosting several community book discussions this fall on King’s book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”

To make this happen, Atkins is working to raise $1,000 to purchase 100 copies of the book to give away.                                                                                                                                                                     

At the beginning of 2018, Atkins also vowed to make 50 presentations to local schools and organizations about the importance of King and civil rights, showing a video and holding candid discussions.

Atkins said he has nearly reached half his goal ad is continuing to schedule more event.

To request a presentation or make a donation for purchasing the books, call Atkins at (859) 236-5818.