50 Years of Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

by Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

As the city of Lexington and UK’s campus prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., what better time to announce a new tradition?

That would be the “Stop, Learn & Go,” which will be offered right here in the College of Health Sciences. As part of the Cultural Celebration Series, the “Stop, Learn & Go” will focus on Dr. King and the origins of the day. It will be held from 2-3 p.m. Jan. 17 in the CHS Atrium.

“The University of Kentucky has many traditions to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and this ‘Stop, Learn, & Go’ is the College of Health Sciences’ way to participate in honoring the legacy of Dr. King,” said Uriah Carter, director of the College of Health Sciences’ Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “It’s an important event because the work that Dr. King did still has an impact on social justice, racial equality and civic responsibility that is still relevant in current times.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday of January each year and is an American federal holiday, marking the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

King was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. Despite initial reservations on the state level, it was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.

In Lexington, this year’s MLK Celebration will be on Jan. 16, beginning with the annual Freedom March at 1 p.m. and concluding with the powerful Commemorative Program held at the Central Bank Center at 2 p.m. This is the 50th anniversary of Lexington’s annual city-wide observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, making it one of the oldest such programs in the country. The March begins and ends at the Central Bank Center in downtown Lexington.

“This storied event has been praised by media commentators and several of our illustrious speakers as ‘one of the best in the country for its consistent record of presenting thoughtful, timely and creatively uplifting programs,’” said Chester Grundy, MLK Day Event Chairperson since 1974. “We look forward to celebrating with our community and invite everyone to come together on Jan. 16.” 

The MLK Holiday Observance in Lexington provides an opportunity for the community to come together to honor Dr. King’s legacy of freedom, justice, peace and equal opportunity for all Americans. The annual March and Program draws participation of several thousand people from across Central Kentucky and beyond. The MLK Holiday Observance is a FREE public event designed to “inspire the better angels of our nature,” as we unite as a community to elevate Dr. King’s vision and legacy. 

Back on campus, on Tuesday, Jan. 17, the Office for Institutional Diversity is hosting a 50th anniversary celebration at the Singletary Center for the Arts, from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. The program includes powerful music, art and poetry readings from members of the UK family.

Lexington’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance was founded in 1973, five years after the tragic assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in April, 1968. Jerry Stevens, the first Director of UK’s Office of Minority Student Affairs and Dr. Edgar Mack, faculty member in UK’s College of Social Work, served as founders and co-coordinators during the early days of this observance.

They would later be joined by Chester Grundy, who upon his hiring, would take on the role of program coordinator in 1974. The MLK Holiday was originally established not only to elevate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but to establish an undergraduate scholarship in his honor.

See this link to help support the event.