Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Pamela Goodwine was the keynote speaker at Monday’s 11th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast at First Christian Church, but she wasn’t the only person whose story or song found a place in the hearts of the sold-out crowd.
Aaron Mason sang two songs, Sioux Finney spoke of the Huntertown History Project that’s telling the history of the historic African-American community, and two scholarship recipients thanked the Roots and Heritage Committee and Human Rights Commission for help getting through college.
Goodwine, who was profiled in last week’s Sun, spoke of the way her childhood dream of becoming a judge came to fruition, despite the loss of her father to cancer, her mother to murder, and her life-and-death struggle to overcome Crohn’s Disease.
“Today, communities across the country will come together to celebrate and commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Goodwine said early in her address. “He coined the phrase, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’” – a nod to the theme of the 34th annual MLK Day celebration in Woodford County: “Finding justice in an unjust world.”
“Dr. King’s life’s work was centered around a mission to help the world embrace the principles of justice. In his ‘I have a dream’ speech, Dr. King reminded the audience that despite 100 years since the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation, the plight of African-Americans had not changed much …”
Goodwine said harmony is another word often used in conjunction with justice, and quoted King’s famous desire that his four children would one day be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. She noted that four years after that speech in front of the Lincoln Monument, King published his final book: “Where do we go from here? Chaos or Community?”
“And before he could answer that question, his life was snuffed out by an assassin’s bullet. Today, as our community struggles with mass incarceration, disenfranchisement, inequality and injustice, we are asking ourselves that very same question …” Goodwine said.
Goodwine said remedies for such problems begin at the ballot box.
“It is important to elect leaders who are committed to justice for all,” she said. “We need to vote. We need to let our voices be heard and we must educate ourselves about the issue. There is no place for ignorance and apathy. How many times have you heard … ‘I don’t know and I don’t care?’ What you ignore, you empower, and what you condone, you own. We must speak truth to power. No one is above the law, and that includes all of our elected officials, both state-wide and nationally.”
Goodwine spoke of her struggles along the way, drawing gasps from some who weren’t familiar with her biography. She said she had a personal dream – earning a seat on the Kentucky Supreme Court.
“Another of my dreams is to live in a country where there is equality for all. Working together, I believe we can enact the change we want to see in this world. How do we do that? As I mentioned earlier, the answer is at the ballot box,” she said.
She closed with a call to action.
“Educate yourselves. Live your life to the fullest and help others along the way. Be of service to others in any way that you can. Contribute to organizations and people in your own unique ways. Spreading love and kindness while helping others will bring about some of the changes that we hope to see in this world. Finding justice in an unjust world begins with you – and you, and you,” Goodwine said.
“I needed that,” said emcee Tamia Jackson. Later in the program, Peggy Carter Seal announced the most recent winner of the scholarship awarded by the Roots and Heritage Committee: Jasmine Collins. “I will make you proud,” Collins said.
Whitney Stepp told the crowd how First Baptist Church had paid for her books while she was attending college in Maryland and announced that her employer, the Becker Law Office, was contributing $1,000 to the scholarship fund.
“That doesn’t let the rest of you off the hook,” Seal said. “Don’t put your checkbooks away.”
The checkbooks stayed out. A few hours later, Seal told the Sun that the committee, which is a tax-exempt non-profit, had received $2,650 for their scholarship program.