Area residents will commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday next week with three events, including a public march and a forum led by community leaders.

The city commemorates the birthday of the civil rights leader every year. But this year’s commemoration had to be altered somewhat due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The safety of our community is the priority,” said Jaklyn-Mahree Hill, interim director of the Owensboro Human Relations Commission.

The planners considered not having the event but decided to go forward with virtual forums and with an outdoor march where people would take appropriate safety measures, Hill said.

“It’s very important to have events like this, even if we have to change it up to be safe,” Hill said.

On Monday, a march from Owensboro High School to Kentucky Wesleyan College will begin at noon. People are asked to gather in the southeast parking lot near Frederica Street and Ford Avenue. City buses will take people from the Kentucky Wesleyan campus to OHS from 11:15 to noon, and will also take people from KWC to the Brescia University campus from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m.

“It’s a mask required event and we will be distanced, even outdoors,” Hill said. The march “has always been a show of unity in our community,” Hill said.

At 6 p.m. Monday, Kentucky Wesleyan will host a keynote address from OJ Oleka, president of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities. Oleka is former deputy state treasurer and a founder of AntiRacismKy, a bipartisan coalition working to end institutional racism.

Tickets for Oleka’s address are extremely limited, but the event will be streamed at Kentucky Wesleyan’s website, www.kwc.edu.

On Tuesday, the college will host a community forum beginning at 6 p.m. The event will be streamed on Kentucky Wesleyan’s Facebook page. The panel will discuss ways the community can invest in, and advocate for, “the rights and well-being of marginalized groups,” a Kentucky Wesleyan press release says.

The panel will include the Rev. Rhondalyn Randolph, head of the Owensboro chapter of the NAACP; the Rev. Larry Hostetter, president of Brescia University; and Anna Kuthy and Naheed Murtaza, board members of the Human Relations Commission.

“I can guarantee it is going to be a good representation of Owensboro, and a good way of sharing ideas,” Hill said.

“I think everywhere in our nation is facing a lot of turmoil right now, especially when it comes to race and politics,” Hill said. But events like the city’s MLK march and commemoration “help bring the community together.”

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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