Jan. 17—It was a cold day, but it failed to chill the spirits of the attendees of the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March Monday.
Diversity Director of Somerset Community College Elaine Wilson and marketing director of Citizen's National bank Rikiyah Pryor introduced the event and recounted the weekend leading up to the march including the Unity Breakfast and a Sunday Service which also commemorated the late King's life and work.
King's reputation precedes him. As one of the primary activists of the American Civil Rights Era, King and others worked tirelessly to secure the desegregation of the United States and kill Jim Crow. Though racism still exists in many forms in the United States, King's memory still brings hope, not just to Black people, but to all those who celebrate freedom and wish to see an end to institutionalized racism and heal the wounds brought about by racial animosity.
The working people of Somerset count themselves as among those who celebrate Black freedom, and many joined the march to demonstrate their dedication to King's still-living cause.
The march began in Judicial Center Plaza and ended in the Lake Cumberland Farmer's Market at the Citizen's National Bank Pavilion. There, attendees were treated to coffee, donuts, and the company of each other as people of all different backgrounds sat in solidarity.
Rikiyah Pryor again opened the event and spoke on the nature of being mixed race and the kindness of Somerset citizens.
"There's something people say, 'Well I don't see color,' thinking that it's a nice thing to say. But I do. And it's beautiful no matter what color it is," said Pryor.
Following her interaction, Director of Healthy Somerset Kathy Townsend lead the attendees in the singing of the African American National Anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing," by Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson, which praises the strength and resilience of Black Americans.
Mayor of Somerset Alan Keck then added his voice. He introduced motivational speaker Jeremy Taylor. Keck called Taylor one of his best friends and found camaraderie in their shared belief in the Christian religion.
Taylor then spoke on Dr. King's legacy and his feeling of hope that King's march on Washington gave him. As he fought back tears, he recounted an image in the footage of King's famous "I have a dream" speech in which a Black father in the audience lifts his son on his shoulders.
"I just can't get that image out of my mind," said Taylor. "As I think about once-upon-a-time by blended interracial family America wasn't ready to receive and respect... When Ms. Kathy [Townsend] reached out and extended the invitation to join this morning and share a few words, it just dawned on me... Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life was taken at the young age of 39, and on September 26th of this year guess how old I'll be."
Taylor's similarities he drew between himself and Dr. King illustrated his sense of duty to lead.
Taylor then spoke on the courage of people throughout the 20th century and milestones made in the success of Black people.
He also praised the courage that Dr. King's widow Coretta Scott King shows, saying that despite her late husband's assassination, she continues to fight for their goals.
Ultimately, Taylor said the courage of many civil rights leaders was drawn from their Christian beliefs.
After Taylor had finished speaking David Wilson, Elaine Wilson's son, stood up and spoke on his mother or as he referred to her jokingly "Dr. Mom."
"There is no cause she's not willing to take in order to make this world a better place for all," said David Wilson.
"Dr. Mom" was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Acts of Service Award for her commitment to diversifying Somerset and the advancement of all those oppressed in America.
Elaine Wilson was humbled by the award and said she felt "undeserving." Her being presented by the award was a secret before the event and was given to Wilson as a surprise.
"Somebody ahead of us is encouraged by what we are doing to step up and do what's right, and I just can't believe this. I sincerely, sincerely appreciate this honor," she said. "Thank you all for being here. It's my honor."
Wilson received a standing ovation for her award reception.