List: MLK Day events in Butler County

FILE: About 50 people braved cold temperatures for the 34th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. event in 2020 in Hamilton. The march stepped off from the Booker T. Washington Community Center on Front Street, traversed High Street and then down MLK Boulevard to the Pilgrim Baptist Church.

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FILE: About 50 people braved cold temperatures for the 34th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. event in 2020 in Hamilton. The march stepped off from the Booker T. Washington Community Center on Front Street, traversed High Street and then down MLK Boulevard to the Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Set-backs don’t deter the importance of the national holiday, local leaders say

The unifying messages of the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday were always important but they will resonate even more Monday as a global pandemic slogs toward its two-year anniversary, say local leaders.

With many experiencing more isolation brought on by the precautions and impacts of COVID-19, the importance of coming together is heightened, and so too is the desire to connect across racial and other barriers.

But the latest surge of COVID-19 cases has already forced cancelations of some local MLK events to commemorate the memory and mission of the famed civil rights activist and preacher of racial peace.

West Chester Twp.’s annual MLK march and event — usually one of Butler County’s largest — saw organizers late last week switch to an all-virtual event for safety concerns. And some of other events are also going virtual as sponsors urge the public to check with them before planning to attend.

ExploreMLK Day march in West Chester canceled due to COVID-19 surge

But these set-backs don’t deter the importance of the national holiday, say local leaders.

“We are really seeing the importance of humanity and human relationships,” said Pastor Shaquila Mathews who is also a member of Hamilton Board of Education and a city activist.

The ongoing pandemic “has made us all more intentional in appreciating people, no matter if they are black, white, asian or Hispanic, gay or trans or whatever they are.”

Separation of people for safety reasons has intensified during the virus and “made us realize how important all people really are and that is what Dr. King stood for, that we see people for who they are not for the color of their skin,” said Mathews, whose community activism won her the Hamilton Citizen of the Year Award in 2018.

Lakota Schools is the largest suburban school system in southwest Ohio and Elgin Card was the first African-American high school principal in the district’s history.

In recent years — after being promoted from Lakota West High School’s principalship — Card has been the district’s senior director-outreach diversity and inclusion/ombudsman.

He echoed Mathew, saying “Dr. King consistently spoke about bringing people together to move forward. Unfortunately, there have been too many examples of divisiveness throughout our country since the pandemic began.”

Challenging times — be they pandemics or other divisiveness — are tailor-made for remembrances and honoring the racial divisions King’s heroic activism, said Card.

Dr. King once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“The pandemic is taking its toll on everyone. We may not know how it is impacting our students’ lives when they leave our buildings at the end of the day. But it is our responsibility to make sure that we help our kids keep moving forward,” he said.

Given the continuing climb in cases due to COVID-19, coordinators for area MLK events began cautioning the public to check with event sponsors to make sure in-person activities haven’t been canceled or switched to virtual events.

Some of the other local MLK holiday events scheduled to take place Monday include:

· The annual West Chester Twp. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day “Live the Dream March for Unity” has been cancelled and will switch to an all-virtual event. For more information go to the event’s website.

· Miami University is also holding an all-virtual event starting at 10 a.m. including a viewing of the “Training for Freedom” documentary trailer presented by Richard Campbell and Jacky Johnson (full film to air on PBS in February) and Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy and remarks on Freedom Summer ‘64 by Amber Franklin. Go to website.

· Hamilton Payne Chapel AME’s annual MLK March through downtown was still scheduled to occur at the time this story went to press, but organizers are asking all participants to wear COVID-19 protective masks. Participants should meet outside the church, at 300 South Front St., at 10:45 a.m. for the 11 a.m. march start.

At the march’s completion back at the church, participants will not enter the building but will be encouraged to watch at 12:15 p.m. the church’s MLK Day program on its Facebook page, which will feature a keynote address by The Rev. Vanessa R. Cummings on the topic of “How do we address social justice in 2022?”

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