To the singing of the spiritual “This Little Light of Mine,” approximately 75 people honored the memory of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday afternoon at Murray State University.
In an event co-sponsored by the MSU Office of Multicultural Affairs and the brothers of the university’s Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the group gathered at the historical marker honoring the first black student to enroll at MSU located near Pogue Library and marched across campus to the rededicated MLK memorial in the main residential college complex for a candlelight vigil.
“We are very fortunate that Alpha Phi Alpha has given the effort it has with this cause, particularly in establishing this rededicated marker,” said S.G. Carthell, director of Multicultural Affairs. “When I got here 10 years ago, they were hard at work on it already. They had the dream, and we’re able to stand here today because of that work.”
Sunday marked the first time King’s birthday was celebrated at the memorial, which was rededicated last September, and several speakers at the vigil remarked how they believe King would have been very pleased with a turnout that represented his dream for people of all races to come together.
“As I look at this crowd I think of how, 50 years ago, you wouldn’t have seen this,” said Jeremiah Johnson, a student from Hopkinsville, who is president of the MSU Student Government Association. He was one of three whites to speak at the vigil.
“You have blacks and whites here, different nationalities even, along with a good mix of old and young,” said MSU Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Don Robertson. “I believe this is a good account for how far things have come here at Murray State when it comes to its students and staff.”
Sunday’s event also was quite meaningful for Alpha Phi Alpha’s MSU chapter president, Ryan Hudson of Paducah. He said King is to be thanked for paving the way for him to have opportunities blacks were not afforded during the days King helped lead the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and ‘60s. That was when segregation ruled, especially in the South, where blacks faced hardships such as attending separate schools, using separate restrooms and not being allowed to eat in the same restaurants as whites.
“Because of Dr. King, I am having a chance to go to a great school. When I leave here, I will have the opportunity to get a good job,” Hudson said, explaining that A Phi A members have a special responsibility, being King also was a member of that fraternity in his college years.
“He personified the Aims of Alpha Phi Alpha ... Manly deeds, scholarship and love for all mankind. He lived by those ideas every day. It is imperative for us to make sure that his living was not in vain.”
Sunday’s activities will segway into today’s celebration of MLK Day in Murray. The MLK Jr. Community Breakfast is set for 8 a.m. at the Woodmen of the World building with the keynote address to follow at 10 a.m. in MSU’s Curris Center Ballroom with Elder Henry Watson of Lexington providing that address.