Roughly 100 people representing a wide array of races, ages and backgrounds marched down Frederica Street in unity Monday, honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
With the theme of “Moving forward in change,” the group stayed distanced and masked — but connected in cause and together in spirit — as they walked together on a brisk afternoon from Owensboro High School to Kentucky Wesleyan College.
“Moving forward isn’t just moving on. Moving forward is working for a better tomorrow,” said Jaklyn Hill, Executive Director of the Owensboro Human Relations Commission.
OHRC helps plan the march annually, working in rotation with KWC, Brescia University and Owensboro Community & Technical College.
“We participate in this event because it’s an important way for our community to show unity and show the diversity that our community has,” Hill said. “It’s also just a wonderful way to commemorate Dr. King’s legacy and all the people who worked alongside him to do the amazing things he did.”
Hill said OHRC is concerned about making sure the community works together towards change and a better future.
“As we’ve been dealing with the pandemic, it’s kept us apart for a long time,” she said. “Coming together, even socially distanced and virtually, is a great way to connect with people — and we all need connection, especially on topics like this.”
Rebecca McQueen-Ruark, Vice President of Student Affairs at KWC, said when they first started talking about what this year’s event was going to look like, they knew it was important to figure out how they could do something safely.
Not having the event was never an option.
“We felt like it’s always important to honor Dr. King’s legacy,” she said. “But especially with the things that have happened over the last year and the divisive culture in our country, it was important that we had an event that showed community and solidarity and hopefully offered hope.”
McQueen-Ruark said King’s message of nonviolent protest has rung especially important as tensions have risen nationally in recent months.
“I think it’s important for people to see that there’s a way to come together and have their voice heard in a way that isn’t violent,” she said. “Hopefully our message was of love and hope and community.”
The Rev. Rhondalyn Randolph, president of the NAACP’s Owensboro chapter, was proud to be a part of the march honoring King’s legacy by promoting unity and showing the strength in the diversity of the Owensboro community.
“It gives us hope in the midst of divisive times,” she said. “It provides an opportunity to promote hope, that there is hope as long as we come together in our community.”
Several other local organizations, including Nonviolent Owensboro and the Western Academy at the H. L. Neblett Community Center, were also represented. Some current and former City Commissioners and a handful of other local leaders also participated.
The Owensboro Police Department provided escort for the march, and the Owensboro Transit System offered free transportation so those participating didn’t have to walk back to their vehicles.
Following the closing prayer, one community member led the group in the first verse of “We Shall Overcome,” a gospel song which became a protest song and a key anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.