• John McGary, Woodford Sun Sports

MLK Breakfast attracts huge crowd

The ninth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and Breakfast at First Christian Church Monday was the best-attended ever, according to one organizer, with 219 tickets sold. As attendees finished their breakfasts, Desiree Jackson read a poem she’d composed for the occasion. She said she hoped her message was inspirational and hopeful, joking that while she’d wanted to “play nice,” she felt compelled to speak about some of the troubling recent developments in race relations. She spoke of the shortcomings in our nation’s founding documents, written nearly a century before slavery was ended. She praised King and mentioned other civil rights leaders not nearly so celebrated – perhaps, she said, because their messages were less comfortable: Angela Davis, Zac De La Rocha, W.E.B. Dubois, Muhammad Ali, Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X and others. “ … We all just want to be free. And I’m sorry – I wish I could deliver a spoken word piece on how much we’ve changed, how civil rights of America’s people are held up … how we are under new leadership that has respect for all mankind. But I can’t, because here lately, seems like civil rights has done a rewind …” Jackson said. She closed by asking the audience to observe a moment of silence, “Not because we have given up hope for this great nation, but because we have come together once again to show this nation that dreams really can come true.” The keynote speaker was Dr. Elaine Farris (profiled in last week’s Sun), a Winchester native and lifelong educator who was the first African-American superintendent of a Kentucky school district. She quoted King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” which was written after he’d been arrested for taking part in a peaceful demonstration in April 1963. “’We know from painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressors. It must be demanded by the oppressed. I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.’ If Dr. King was with us today, he would have been in Ferguson with Michael Brown Jr.’s family, because injustice was there. He would have been in Baltimore with Freddy Gray’s family, because injustice was there. Dr. King would have been in Florida with Trayvon Martin’s family, because injustice was there. “We cannot sit idly by in Versailles and not be concerned about what happened in Ferguson and Baltimore; about what is happening in Frankfort, Lexington or Louisville. Dr. King’s words constantly remind us that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Farris said. Farris spoke of milestones in the Civil Rights Movement – among them, 1965s Voting Rights Act (signed by President Lyndon Johnson, a southerner) and the March on Selma. Her refrain: “We’re not done yet.” “Fifty-two years after Bloody Sunday, America’s democracy remains under siege from multiple fronts. In states across this country, some of our elected officials continue to attack the voting rights through gerrymandering, voter suppression and this, my friends, is not fake news,” Farris said. Farris cited two examples of the power of the vote: Former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump. (She didn’t mention that last week, according to several sources, Trump used an obscenity to describe Haiti and African countries and wondered aloud why America couldn’t have more immigrants from Norway, a predominantly white country.) “The divisiveness, the hatred, the bigotry that we have seen displayed and demonstrated this past year – Oh, America, that’s not us. This blatant behavior is not our America. These aren’t the values that millions of men and women have fought and died for. We are better than this. We believe in equal opportunity and fairness. We believe that we provide assistance to the least of these.” “We believe that people are more than their heritage. Let’s face it – no matter what’s going on or not going on in the White House, no matter what he says or doesn’t say, America, we’re better than this …” she said. “We’re not done yet. Dr. King said in his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, ‘There are those who will ask, when will you be satisfied?’ Well, if Dr. King was here today, he would say, ‘Dr. Farris, we have challenging times ahead, but we cannot be satisfied until we eradicate hate and hate groups. Tell them, Dr. Farris, we can no longer have hidden figures (a reference to the award-winning movie of the same name) where well-paid educated white men launched us into orbit, but it took three underpaid, brilliant black women to bring us back,’” Farris said. She closed by reading the words of the national anthem, adding, “We’re not done yet.” After Parris’s remarks, the Woodford County Human Rights Commission (HRC) announced the winners of $1,000 scholarships: Juan Perez, who is attending Midway University; and Krista Morton, who is attending Eastern Kentucky University. HRC member Peggy Carter Seal said several people made donations afterwards that will be used to next year’s scholarships.

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