TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

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January 21, 2014

Martin Luther King Day celebration held at London Community Center

CORBIN — By LeeAnn Cain / Staff Writer

“Freedom.”

That is what Martin Luther King Day means to Pearl Shepherd, who participated in a Martin Luther King Day celebration held Monday at the London Community Center by the Laurel County African American Heritage Center.

The events included activities for children, gospel singing, a fashion show, readings by the community of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and a march from the Laurel County Courthouse to the community center.

The celebration began with children’s activities, in which children wrote essays, colored and learned about King’s legacy.

“Martin Luther King means a lot to me,” said Lashaina Underwood, who participated in the children’s activites. “It means a lot to me that he would set the black people free… from white people treating them unfairly.”

Joseph Jackson, another participant in the children’s activities, said “I’m here to celebrate what Martin Luther King has done for us to make black and white people equal.”

After the children’s activities, people could get photos taken for free in a photo booth and could even choose to wear silly wigs and hats. Following that were a fashion show, a gospel singing and a scripture reading by Minister Tony Riley of Twin Oaks Pentecostal Church to celebrate unity.

“This is a great thing,” Marjorie VanDiver said. “Martin Luther King is the reason why people like me have a job.”

“It’s a day of celebration,” Paula Bush said. “I think of the struggles my parents and grandparents went through for this.”

“It means a whole lot,” said William Andrews, who could remember King’s speeches from childhood. “I look over the years and see how far we’ve come. I hope we keep his dream alive.”

Laurel County African American Heritage Center director Wayne Riley said that Martin Luther King Day is “a time when we need to come together as a community.”

“Dr. King wanted us to be a community, not ethic groups,” Riley said. He said the event was meant for the community, and wants the community to “come together as people.”

“We don’t need to have separate events for anything,” Riley said. “We’re not separated anymore.”

Riley said people needed to learn to be part of each other’s lives, and that Martin Luther King Day was a day to reflect on unity.

Following the gospel singing, participants gathered at the courthouse for a march. Mayor Troy Rudder and Laurel County Judge-Executive David Westerfield spoke at the courthouse, along with children Malik Johnson and LaQuyssa Caldwell.

“This is a great opportunity for people to come out and express feelings about an individual who changed the country,” Rudder said. Rudder went on to discuss King’s philosophy of changing the souls of individuals in order to change society.

“We’re trying to keep the change of society going,” Rudder said.

Westerfield focused more on King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

“I hope and pray we can continue to carry his vision,” Westerfield said. “We are all equal in the eyes of God.”

The march then proceeded down Main Street, with the presentation of the colors by North and South Laurel High Schools’ JROTC. The group sang “This Little Light of Mine” as they marched.

Upon returning to the community center, more singing and scripture reading followed, along with a 12-part reading of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech by different members of the community. Announcements of silent auction winners and the children’s essay contest winners were made, and a closing prayer ended the event.

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