Butler County communities to host multiple MLK march events

BUTLER COUNTY ― There are several opportunities on Monday to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s nonviolent fight for civil rights in the United States.

In Butler County’s two largest cities and its largest township, marches will be conducted for people to participate, and each is followed by services designed to unite a community through his message that still hits home for many nearly 55 years after his assassination on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.

King’s leadership in the civil rights movement was pivotal in helping to end entrenched segregation for African Americans, and to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Baptist minister’s words and legacy continue to resonate with all those seeking justice worldwide.

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“I believe in keeping the dream alive, and marching just allows us to honor that movement, honor the sacrifices that he made and those that walked with him,” said Pastor Shaquila Mathews, commonly known as Pastor Shaq around the city of Hamilton. She said marching on MLK Jr. Day is a reminder that the community is still lifted by his message and actions.

For Mathews, King’s message through nonviolence was about “coming together,” where color and race should never be barriers for anybody, and members of a community are “looking at people as people” as they are both “loving and kind.”

The Hamilton march will begin gathering at 10 a.m. on Monday at the Booker T. Washington Center, 1140 S. Front St., and the march begins at 11 a.m. The route is expected to cross the High-Main Bridge once again and go back down High Street.

A service following the march will be at noon at the House of Deliverance, 333 S. Second St.

Middletown’s MLK celebrations will be at various locations in the city starting today with a 3 p.m. Community Ecumenical Service at the Faith United & New Life Church, 9 Baltimore St. On Monday, there will be a Day of Family Engagement at the Robert “Sonny” Hill Jr. Community Center, 800 Lafayette Ave. for individuals, and includes a dream and prayer walk.

West Chester and Liberty townships will, for the first time in years, conduct a celebration and remembrance in Liberty Twp., according to organizers. The activities will include a short walk of participants to the Liberty Center. The 2023 March for Unity sets out at 10 a.m. on Monday from Cabela’s parking lot, 7250 Cabela Drive.

Marchers will cross Liberty Way at the Tyler’s Place Boulevard crosswalk en route to Liberty Center. The march loops around the shopping mall going west, then north and finally back east to the Liberty Center Living Room, 7100 Foundry Row, where a brief reception with hot cocoa and donuts immediately follows.

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The event will include community speakers and the participation of some Lakota Local School officials and staff, which serve both the West Chester and Liberty township communities.

The in-person and indoor event was interrupted for a few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but participating officials said they are glad to have a full event again and one that links both the townships.

“It is an honor for Lakota Schools to still have a seat at the table for this special community tradition after so many years,” said Lauren Boettcher, manager of school and community relations for the 17,200-student district, which is the largest in Butler County. “We especially appreciate the student contest being such an integral part of the program. It gives our students a space to share their perspectives with our community in a way that is meaningful to them. We are always blown away by their thoughtfulness and creativity.”

Barb Wilson, spokeswoman for West Chester Twp., said the township “has been honored over the past two decades to collaborate with Liberty, Lakota Schools and a dedicated group of residents committed to remembering the words and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

“The holiday is about more than a day off from work or school, and this event reminds us that as a community, we can be unified by Dr. King’s message,” said Wilson.