Marshall, Huntington communities celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day


Tiara Brown

 Dozens of Huntington community members and students marched in unity in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday, Jan. 21. 

“We have too many walls, but not enough bridges to walk over peacefully and join one another with acceptance and unity,” Maurice Cooley, associate vice president of Marshall University’s Office of Intercultural Affairs, said.

Things are not perfect in America, said Jerry Gilbert, president of Marshall University.

“We have a long way to go in this country, but I believe in the country,” Gilbert said. “I believe in the good side of things.”

The current issue within Washington, D.C. that is affecting all people needs to be thought of, and all the work that Martin Luther King Jr. did is in the process of being reversed, said Sylvia Ridgeway, Cabell-Huntington NAACP president.

“There are people guilty of those things,” Ridgeway said. “Racism is very much alive, bigotry is very much alive, and those people are guilty, but we, all of us are responsible.”

Ridgeway said the issue within the nation is not only a national issue but is a local issue for Huntington.

“I really do believe that we must get involved in order to cause change,” Ridgeway said. “I’ve seen it in Huntington. It’s not perfect, but I have seen some change in Huntington for the better.”

Being involved in community events is an important factor in generating change, Sandra Clements, a retired Marshall director of disability services, said. 

“We have finally come to a point where the university recognizes the city of Huntington and the Fairfield community,” Clements said. “We have to be here to support that.”

It is very important and dear to the community of Huntington to have days like Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrated throughout the whole community, said Derek Rankin, MU Alpha Phi Alpha president.

“We don’t always get to celebrate black leaders within our community, so it’s always a great opportunity to recognize all that MLK has done,” Rankin said. “Where I come from, there are not a lot of us, so unity and strength are in numbers. This day gives me and my community the chance to allow our voices to be heard.”

There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, said Renay Freckleton, a Delta Sigma Theta Member.

“We must acknowledge the past, the work and progress that we have made, in order to renew our spirits,” Freckleton said. “We must go forth with what needs to be done so that generations to come can continue to enjoy what we enjoy today.”

Things will get better because “good always wins out” and “love conquers hate,” Gilbert said. “Let’s all work together to improve the quality of life for the ‘We,’ in the ‘We the people’ by approaching each other in a spirit of love and respect. Let’s work together to improve the inclusiveness in the ‘We’ in ‘We Are Marshall.”

Tiara Brown can be contacted at [email protected]