LANCASTER — Despite Monday’s gray skies and drizzling rain, more than 25 people gathered on the steps of the Garrard County Courthouse to celebrate the life of one the United States’ most important civil rights leaders.
Lancaster’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day march had initially been canceled but was revived through a fast-acting campaign to get the word out through social networking and local television stations.
“I’m glad they’re doing it,” said interim Police Chief Allen Weston, who escorted the march in his police cruiser. “They do it every year, so I’m glad they’re preserving it.”
Weston said local resident Maria West called him Friday to make sure the march could still happen despite the initial cancelation.
West and others took to Facebook and cell phone networks, spreading the word that the march would still happen. Eventually the announcement made it onto a television news station.
Keith Averitt heard about the plans for the march from West on Facebook.
“We was kind of disappointed that they called it off, and we just started networking,” he said.
This was Averitt’s first march. In previous years, he didn’t realize the importance of the event, he said.
“It’s just as I got older, I realized what it means,” he said. “We’ve come a long way, and we still have a long way to go, but progress is better than nothing.”
Some who marched Monday afternoon said even if the event had remained officially canceled, they still would have marched.
“I decided I was going to be up here at 5 o’clock, no matter what, even if I had to walk by myself,” Michael LeMay said. “(This march) represents everything that America is about — my freedom and everybody’s freedom.”
LeMay said his father died three years ago on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so the day bears special significance for him.
“They were both good men,” he said.
Ricky Catching, who has been coming to the march since it began, said he was planning to march regardless as well. Catching is the regular leader of the singing during the march. His song repertoire includes “We Shall Overcome” and “Free at Last.”
“I’ve been singing them since I was about 12 or 15 years old,” he said. “I joined the church at 12 years old, and I’ve been singing ever since.”
March participant Sandy Headley said learned the march was back on when somebody texted her daughter. For her, the march was about independence and unity.
“We can all come together; we can all be united as one,” she said.
Councilman Bret Baierlein addressed the crowd after the march concluded, telling those gathered how King had been one of his first political heroes.
“His message is portable. It doesn’t matter what generation you’re from, what race, what creed, what religious faith,” Baierlein said. “I think that it’s important that not only we remember him and his words and his dream, but we also ... remember his challenge. He said he might not get there with us, but he said we would get there.”
Baierlein said King didn’t say how long it would take to achieve his dream. It won’t be overnight; it might not even be 30 or 40 years.
“But I hope we as a community can work together to do so.”