• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

MLK is honored by marchers, worshipers

WILLIAM S. SAUNDERS, an associate minister at Consolidated Baptist Church in Lexington, was the guest speaker at Monday night's MLK service at First Baptist Church. Saunders told attendees that it was time to stop dreaming and get to work. (Photo by John McGary)

Dozens of people took part in a "unity march" late Monday afternoon from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Clifton Road to First Baptist Church on South Main Street for a service honoring the slain civil rights leader. Many stayed for the service, which began at 6 p.m., by which time the church was mostly full of people of all races. The Kentucky State Concert (KSU) choir performed three songs, a cappella, beginning with "I've been 'Buked," an African-American spiritual made popular by Mahalia Jackson in 1963. After their last number, they received a standing ovation. Local elected officials were given a chance to step to the front of the church, take the microphone and offer their thoughts on the holiday. State Rep. James Kay said while Monday's theme involved a call for unity, he couldn't talk about unity without discussing division. "This is 2017, folks. In 1956, Dr. King said, 'Over 60 percent of the wealth is owned by one percent.' Folks, today, 90 percent of the wealth is owned by one-tenth of one percent. But what is even worse is that 90 percent of our society has 75 percent of all the debt," Kay said. First Baptist Pastor Floyd Greene saluted Kay for his recent remarks in the General Assembly criticizing Republican legislation seen by many as anti-union, saying Kay had stood tall in the middle of a storm. Woodford Magistrate Ken Reed (Dist. 4) said, "This is my church," adding, "I've lived in this world a few years. But I believe for some reason that today has been the most special day I've ever lived." Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott spoke of how he watched the election returns in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president and realized that every child could say, "I can grow up and become president." The day after the last election, Traugott said, "With a different inflection in our voice, we said, 'Anybody can be elected president.'" The church erupted in laughter at the reference to President-elect Donald Trump. Versailles City Council member Mary Ellen Bradley, a member of First Baptist, said the day, which began with the 31st annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and Breakfast, had been wonderful - but there was still work to be done. "It's an uphill journey . so please, be hopeful, be encouraged, be blessed, and don't sit around with your head hung down, saying, 'Woe is me.' . Because God is still in charge," Bradley said. Versailles City Council member Mike Coleman said he'd taken part in the march for several years, and it was always a blessing, and that he wanted attendees to know he'd be there if they needed anything. After the offering, Greene said the church would pledge $1,000 towards the college scholarship program named for long-time church clerk Mary E. Gill, a 1931 KSU graduate. The message was delivered by William S. Saunders, associate minister of Consolidated Baptist Church in Lexington and a former president of the Lexington chapter of the NAACP. Saunders, too, spoke of education - including the need for teachers who understand the culture of their students. "If you don't understand the culture, guess what? You're not going to understand the students, because sometimes a student comes to school without having had anything to eat," Saunders said. "We need to seek out teachers, we need to train teachers, we need to certify teachers and hire within our communities." Saunders asked how can we make the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. come true, then said he was going to throw a little curve ball at the crowd, joking that he probably wouldn't be invited back. "You need to stop dreaming. You need to stop dreaming. . What we do is wake up and go to work," Saunders said. "We've been dreaming now for years. It's time to stop dreaming. Somebody's got to go to work. We've got to go to work at home, with our families. We've got to go to work in our communities, now, with our neighbors. We have to go to work in our jobs with our colleagues. We have to go to work in our houses of worship with our parishioners. We have to go to work in social gatherings with our friends. "What I'm saying to you is that we have to learn how to relate to one another ." Saunders said. Saunders quoted from an article King wrote for the Morehouse College newspaper when he was a student there in 1947. "It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man . The one is utility, and the other is culture," Saunders said. "Education must enable man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility, the legitimate goals of his life." Earlier in the program, Greene had said that education and salvation offered two paths out of poverty. Near the end of his sermon, Saunders said a good education helps students learn to think for themselves.

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