Eager people filled the streets outside of the Historic Ashland Armory in a line that snaked around the block on Monday, Jan. 19. These Ashland community members gathered here for the 27th annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy.
Among the pre-event buzz, people chatted while clutching donations for a food drive at the entrance. Beyond the front doors, dozens of volunteers zipped around in preparation, busy but always smiling.
Martin Woodward Jr., Coordinator for the Multicultural Resource Center at SOU who has been involved in the Armory celebration for over twelve years says, “The energy and spirit of [the event] is always infectious, it’s always contagious. It’s full of life and folks who are committed to recognizing Dr. King’s dream.”
Former SOU professor, D.L. Richardson, hosted the event to a full house. Richardson opened with the reminder that in addition Dr. King’s birthday, the event is also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and the Bloody Sunday march in Selma, Ala. that helped lead to its passage.
The audience applauded performances by musicians, singers, dancers, and writers of all demographics, dealing out frequent standing ovations and dancing along in the aisles. Slide shows commemorated social justice heroes lost in 2014, and highlighted photos of the current #BlackLivesMatter movement.
The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Geneva Craig, who became involved with the civil rights movement as an angry teenager in the segregated south. With the determination to live a life different from her predecessors, Craig joined the 600 other civil rights activists marching across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in 1965, enduring jail time and police brutality. Craig spoke with teary eyes of her experiences with Dr. King, who encouraged her to be patient and protest peacefully.
The celebration was followed by a march to Lithia Park, where the rebroadcast of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech drew in a crowd that expanded by the sentence. The march was led by students of SOU’s Black Student Union.
If you missed the event, it is not too late to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King. Ansante Foree, the Director of Diversity with the Associated Students of SOU and president of SOU’s Black Student Union, suggests: “Excavating parts of history that are lost or often forgotten. Look at his speeches that won’t be playing here in public. For anyone willing to live in Dr. King’s example, the BSU could definitely be a space for you.”
Woodward Jr. says, “Students need to remember that the biggest thing that can
uphold Dr. King’s dream is asking ‘how can I help my community?’ Bring their
energy and enthusiasm to the work that’s needed. That’s how they can keep the
Keep the dialogue going by attending the film screening and discussion of Arrested Power, hosted by SOU’s Civic Engagement Program on Saturday Jan. 24 at 1:30 p.m.