10th annual MLK breakfast attracts 200-plus - Evening march, service, well-attended despite cold
(Organizer Ken Winkfield said more tickets were sold, so the weather likely did affect attendance.)
The event is organized by the Woodford County Roots & Heritage Committee and sponsored by several local businesses and individuals. One of the first speakers was former Magistrate Ken Reed (Dist. 4), who spoke about the day in 2008 when then-Judge-Executive John Coyle was approached by George Higgins and Ken Winkfield about plans for the Roots & Heritage Committee.
“George and Kenny were in dire need of funds that would provide the opportunity to begin the process of forming the organization,” Reed said. “After that discussion, Judge John Coyle was gracious to provide a check for $500 in seed money to allow George and Kenny to continue …”
That money came from Coyle’s own checking account, Reed said. Then he asked for Coyle’s widow, Mary Don, and his son, John Paul, to stand for a round of applause. A moment of silence in the memory of Coyle, who died last November, followed.
The program was moderated by Renee Shaw, the host of KET’s “Kentucky Tonight” and “Connections with Renee Shaw.” Among the other speakers was Desiree Jackson, who, before reading a rousing poem called “Resurrection of Hope” that she’d just finished late the evening before, said at the end, she hoped for a little audience participation.
“I stand here before you to release a new poem on peace. But how can I do that when it seems America is failing to cease the beast that destroys peace?” she began. Jackson said that while we honor the life and teachings of Dr. King, “The more I turn on the news, the more I’m reminded of racist views.”
“Racial tension is at an all-time high; everyone watching their backs. Can’t make a statement or crack a joke without someone feeling attacked. So I ask, ‘What are we to do?’ Remember the dream and let love shine through. … It is important to remember while we are still alive that we’re all God’s children and need one another to survive,” Jackson said. She then asked people to hold hands, and for those who knew the words to a song called, “I Need You To Survive” to sing along. All held hands, and many knew the song. Another song, “My Tribute,” was performed by Aaron Mason, with the final verse being, “Just let me live my life, let it pleasing, Lord to Thee, and if I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary.”
The Rev. Dr. Bishop E. Carter III, pastor of Bethsaida Baptist Church in Lexington, delivered the keynote address, explaining to the audience that he was recuperating from spinal surgery and asking them to bear with him.
Much of Carter’s speech was inspired by, and in some cases, borrowed from the themes of the fourth and final book written by King, “Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?”
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was anointed and commissioned by God 200 years after the establishment of the Constitution of these United
States to tell America and the world that racism and social injustice cannot continue in these United States of America, and equality at all levels of humanity is what a democracy, not only according to our Constitution expects, but more so what the Bible commands of this Christian nation, and the people of the globe,” Carter said.
When the Constitution was written, Carter said, reading from a speech by King, “The negro was 60 percent of a person. Today … when we view the good things in life, the negro has a double standard: Twice as many unemployed, the rate of infant mortality is double that of whites, there are twice as many negroes dying in Vietnam (in proportion) to the size of the population,” Carter said.
Carter cited King’s words about the black experience in America that haven’t changed all that much in the 50-plus years since King was assassinated, saying, “This is where we are.” He cited some of the many overlooked inventions and accomplishments of black people in America, from the design of cities like Washington, D.C. to developments with soybeans, peanut butter, cosmetics, medicine, along with the black women NASA employees who helped put the first men on the moon and the building of the Biltmore Estate. Many of the often-overlooked accomplishments of blacks in America were carried out with the unpaid labor of slaves, Carter noted.
“Where do we go to from here: chaos or community?” Carter asked repeatedly.
He answered that question, in part, by telling the story of a young black boy stricken with polio just a few months before the vaccine for that disease was discovered.
“The boy was born in the projects – government housing. They all said, ‘Nothing good can come out of a government project, if you’re black.’ But the community said to his parents, ‘My son is a project project,’ a meaning that’s stated by the Ethiopian proverb, ‘It takes an entire village to raise a child,’” Carter said.
Despite other obstacles, from a doubting school guidance counselor to polio itself, Bishop E. Carter III grew up to obtain two bachelor’s degrees, four post-graduate degrees, and a life leading others towards God. In his case, community triumphed over chaos – and such victories must be fought, and won, by all.
“May we pray for each other. May we not forget who we are. And more so, don’t you forget whose you are,” Carter said, and the audience stood and applauded.
Unity march, evening service
The Rev. Dr. Floyd Greene, pastor of First Baptist Church, was the keynote speaker at that evening’s MLK service, which followed a march from the corner of Clifton Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to First Baptist on South Main Street. Before Greene’s address, elected officials were given an opportunity to speak about what MLK Day means to them.
Judge-Executive James Kay said it was a blessing to be called to the courthouse and that he and other local leaders would work together in the spirit of Dr. King. State Rep. Joe Graviss said he was impressed by the message at the MLK breakfast and hoped the spirit of that message would last year-round. Versailles City Council Member Mike Coleman said attending the MLK breakfast and evening service were always highlights of his year. Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott said there was a spirit of unity between city and county governments that was unlike any he’d seen in his lifetime.
Greene, who’s been pastor of First Baptist Church since 1986, began by discussing the impact King had on him when he met the civil rights leader at a bus station in the south. Greene, then serving in the Army, had been attempting to hitchhike from his Army post in Texas back home to Hopkinsville – not a wise idea, it turned out, Greene said with a chuckle. Along the way, he and another black soldier were harassed at a juke joint. Greene said by the time he saw a man sitting on a bench in a Birmingham bus station, head down, smoking a cigarette, he had just a dime in his pocket.
Greene didn’t recognize King at first, but sat next to him, and the two men conversed.
“He began to talk to me about the (racial) struggle that was kept privately and intentionally from the military, and he let me know that he was proud that I was in the military, but he also let me know that wasn’t really where my fight was,” Greene said.
Addressing Kay and Traugott, Greene said he was excited about the young, energetic leadership in Woodford County, saying that when energy and wisdom get together, there’s no limit on what can be done.
Much of Greene’s address referred to scripture in Genesis, when Joseph had a dream and shared it with his brethren – only to be hated for it. Greene told attendees to beware of dream-killers, from the serpent that successfully tempted Adam and Eve to the forces that led to King’s murder after the civil rights leader took controversial positions on Vietnam and other issues.
“You never get too old to dream,” Greene said. Near the end of his speech, he reminded attendees, as Carter did at breakfast, “We all need one another.”