MLK Day program honors local community leaders

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer 

MONTEVALLO – Dozens of local residents gathered in Montevallo on Jan. 20 to honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the 16th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March and Program.

Participants walked together from Main Street to Montevallo High School, where a program titled “Dr. King’s 20/20 Vision: The Beloved Community: The Fierce Urgency of Now” was held.

“Dr. King did more than we can even imagine. He did more behind the scenes than in front of the scenes, and we’re still honoring him,” the Rev. Kenneth Dukes said. “We’re still finding new speeches, still hearing things and goals and the vision that God had placed in this great leader. And, now, it is time for us to wake up from the dream and to do the work. We’ve made tremendous strides pertaining to unity and togetherness.”

University of Montevallo Chief of Police Timothy Alexander served as grand marshal of this year’s march.

“It’s a very humbling experience,” Alexander said, and thanked the people in his life who have supported him. “I know I didn’t do it alone. I didn’t do it by my actions. It was people long before me that paved the way to allow me to stand before you today, so thank you.”

Alexander referred to a message he said Dukes once shared about the meaning of the dash between a person’s birth and death dates on his or her headstone.

“All your life’s accomplishments, good and bad, they’re all measured in that little dash,” Alexander said. “In that dash, I wanted to literally take advantage of life’s potential. I am very humbled, but it’s not over. I promise you I won’t let you down.”

More than a dozen individuals were honored as recipients of Dare To Be First awards for their courageous leadership in various roles in the community.

“You set the standard,” Dukes said to the recipients. “If you hadn’t gone first, where would we be? These are the trendsetters. These are the door-openers. They get the opportunity to be first to pave the way for you.”

The program also included a musical performance by Greek Voices and remarks from Montevallo Mayor Hollie Cost and Dr. Kathy King.

“We are truly a community of unity,” Cost said. “You can look around this room, and you can see it.”

Cost thanked her fellow City Council members for their service.

“I really appreciate their involvement and leadership, and I also want to encourage more of you to become leaders in our community,” Cost said. “If you want this community to be more of what you want this community to be, then we need you to step up. There is room for more at the table, and I open the doors for you.”

King, who co-leads the Montevallo Community Remembrance Project Coalition, said Montevallo’s Equal Justice Initiative historical marker—which was approved by the City Council in August 2019—will be installed and unveiled in mid-March.

The marker will be placed near the site of a double lynching of two African-American men in 1889.