By Josh Christian, student news writer, Office of University Communications
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. — “What an impact!” Doretha Sanders, assistant principal and director of Wings Express Program at Campbellsville Elementary School, said at the community prayer service held in honor of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.
The impact King had on America and his emphasis on unity were the general themes of the night held in Ransdell Chapel on Campbellsville University’s campus.
Many community leaders were at and participated in the event, including Dr. John Chowning, pastor of Saloma Baptist Church and executive assistant to the president, government, community and constituent relations at Campbellsville University; the Rev. Montel Richardson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Campbellsville, Ky.; Jerry Cowherd, Greensburg City Council member; Jasmine Barnett, director of church outreach and associate campus minister at Campbellsville University;
Tony Young, mayor of Campbellsville, Ky.; Eddie Rogers, Taylor County Judge- executive; and Max Wise, Kentucky State Senator, and others.
“We are gathered for the unity of our campus, our community, our state and our nation,” Chowning said.
“We say no to prejudice and violence,” Chowning said. “And we say yes to Christian love, unity, working together, declaring we are all one in the crucified Christ.”
Sanders and Cowherd shared personal encounters they had with discrimination and prejudice.
“I was only five years old when I had been confronted with prejudice,” Sanders said.
Sanders spoke of an incident, when as a young girl, she was confronted by a white girl who used a racial insult, telling her that she could not use the playground swings.
“I never thought that I would be standing a stage, talking about the impact that Dr. King had.”
Holding a “whites and colored” sign which was once for segregated water fountains, Cowherd shared his family’s 100 plus years of experience of discrimination.
“My grandfather was never comfortable with going into a restaurant,” Cowherd said. “It wasn’t until he was in his late life that he would go in and eat.”
He also spoke of his time playing football for Green County High School and how his team was confronted by the manager of a restaurant after one of their games, where he was told his kind had to eat in the back.
“My coach said if they can’t eat here, none of us can,” Cowherd said.
Cowherd also shared how times have changed.
“Our children went to high school and were elected class presidents,” Cowherd said.
“Our grandchildren live in Mississippi, and believe it or not, they play with kids of different colors.”
Richardson shared a piece of original poetry, encouraging those in attendance to take the message of unity from King and apply it to the political and social climate of today.
Barnett also encouraged those in attendance to use their voice, and in a world of social media, their thumbs, to speak for what is right.
Young and Rogers, together, read from a proclamation, ultimately declaring the month of April, a month of unity for Campbellsville, Ky.
“The time is always right to do what is right,” Young quoted from King.
Wise addressed the issue of civil public dialogue, championing its return.
“I have personally witnessed the divisiveness of politics,” Wise said.
“And if our democracy has a future, we must not perpetuate politics of outrage and instability,” Wise said.
“I want to get back to public discourse, where we can hold different opinions and never have to personally attack people.”
Several videos were shown and different scriptures were read throughout the ceremony. There were also several times of prayer and worship.
Yevette Haskins, chair of Greater Campbellsville United, a co-sponsor of the event, was the presiding officer for the evening.
The Rev. James Washington, pastor of New Zion Baptist Church and chaplain of Taylor County Ministerial Association; Guillermo and Olga Tamez, lay leaders at St. Andrews United Methodist Church; the Rev. Michael Caldwell, pastor of Pleasant Union Baptist Church, and several students also led prayers and read scriptures.
Aubrey Young, seventh grader at Campbellsville Middle School, sang “God Bless America”
Rosalind Strong Porter sang “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and concluded the service with the song “We Shall Overcome” as the audience held hands.