Centre College holds Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration

Published 10:53 am Thursday, January 18, 2024

By Lance Gaither


Monday Jan. 15 was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To honor the holiday and life of the civil rights leader, Centre College hosted a commemoration event that was open to the public.

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“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a sacred name in American history,” said Centre College president Dr. Milton Moreland. “It makes us think about justice, equality, and peace. We also think about activism and how an individual can make a difference. Having a model like Dr. King is incredible for us. Someone who fought for justice and figured out a way to make a difference even as a young man. It is incredible to celebrate, memorialize, and pay tribute to his life tonight.”

Followed by Moreland’s speech, Centre students Lara Nowell and Caleb Tarbush performed poetry readings. Centre student Lilly Zehnder sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.

The keynote speaker of the event was the Judge Melissa Murphy. Murphy was first appointed to a vacant seat in the Fayette District Court in 2020 and in 2022 was elected judge of the 4th Division District Court. She serves on the board of directors for the Chrysalis House and Catholic Health Initiative Saint Joseph Health Board. She is a member of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and the chairperson of the Statewide Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Board.

In her speech, she emphasized the importance of continuing the mission and goals that Dr. King fought for in his life and criticized book bans and Senate Bill 93.

“In essence our legislature would like to forcibly subdue and encourage the belief that representation for my 11 year old son is not important and that he and his classmates can not be told the truth about the atrocities of slavery in the United States,” Murphy said.

Senate Bill 93 is currently under committee review and will “prohibit public school districts and schools from expending any resources or funds to purchase membership in, or goods and services from, any organization that discriminates on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion; to prohibit public school districts and schools from expending any resources or funds on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging or political or social activism; prohibit public school districts from engaging in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging; provide a limited exception for compliance with state or federal law.”

Murphy stressed the urgency of opposition to the bill.

“The time is now, the fight is now,” Murphy said. “The United States promised in the Emancipation Proclamation that they would not hinder any efforts that the enslaved or their decedents would use to make them selves free. Education was the first weapon in the tool belt of our ancestors to make themselves free.”

She emphasized the need for a community effort to fight inequality.

“Community has less to do than what we have in common but what we do to support one another, fight for one another, and stand with one another,” Murphy said. “Dr. King said that community happens when we move our focus off the individual length of life, meaning what will happen to me, to the breath of life, how we affect others. We must stand together in being convicted and building community. We must confront and challenge. Now is the time we must confront and face injustices when we see them.”

Due to the weather on Jan. 15, Danville’s annual community march and celebration were canceled. The speeches that were to be delivered during the celebration can be viewed on the City of Danville Facebook page.