MLK Day celebration is Sunday

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Movie, march, speaker will all be part of the day's activities

By Stephen Lega

A member of the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame will be the featured speaker during the Martin Luther King Day celebration in Lebanon this Sunday.

During his career, William Turner has worked as a research assistant for Alex Haley (the author of Roots). Today, he serves as a distinguished professor of Appalachian studies at Berea College.

Turner's talk will cap a day of festivities Jan. 16 in Lebanon.

At 1 p.m., the Marion County Youth Center will be showing a movie about Martin Luther King. Refreshments will be served. The youth center is located at 148 W. Main Street in Lebanon.

At 3 p.m., the annual Martin Luther King Day march will be held. Participants will meet at the Lebanon Post Office. They will travel down Main Street, up Proctor Knott and on ML King Avenue before concluding at First Baptist Church, located on Depot Street.

At 3:30 p.m., First Baptist will host a celebration, which will include Turner's speech.

Turner said his talk would expand on topics in King's writing, including King's view of himself as small in the grand scheme of the world. Turner also said he would discuss King as a begger, a reference to King's writing, in which he wrote that he begged God to help make the world a better place.

Angela Nance, one of the event organizers, said she previously heard Turner speak during an event at the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage.

"By the grace of God, it worked out with his schedule that he could come," she said.

Turner grew up in Harlan County, where many members of his family worked in the coalmines. While he was a student at the University of Kentucky, he helped found the Black Students Union. He graduated from UK in 1968. He continued his studies at Notre Dame University, where he completed his master's degree in 1971, and his doctorate in 1974.

During his academic career, Turner has worked as a sociologist in Appalachia with an emphasis on the African-American experience. Turner has worked and taught at Fisk University, Howard University and he served as a dean and as the interim president at Kentucky State University. Today, he works at Berea College's Loyal Jones Appalachian Center.

Turner has also written a book, Blacks in Appalachia, and from 1980 to 1991, he worked as a research assistant to Haley. He also served as an editorial advisor for the Encyclopedia of Appalachia and as a guest editor of two special issues of Appalachian Heritage magazine. He has worked with Appalshop, based in Whitesburg, on a documentary, Long Journey Home, about migration to central Appalachia.

He has also been a regular columnist for two decades for The Journal in Winston-Salem, N.C., and for The Chronicle, an African-American weekly newspaper.

In 2009, Turner was honored for a lifetime of service to the Appalachian region when he was given the Cratis D. Williams/James S. Brown Service Award.

Turner was also named the Person of the Year in 1994 by the Christian Appalachian Project. He was inducted in the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2007, and in 2008, he was named the Martin Luther King Citizen of the Year by Gov. Steve Beshear.

In 2010, Beshear, Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo and U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler recommended that President Barack Obama appoint Turner as the co-chairman of the federal Appalachian Regional Commission.

Schedule of MLK events

Sunday, Jan. 16

1 p.m. - A movie about Martin Luther King will be shown at the Marion County Youth Center, 148 W. Main Street in Lebanon. Refreshments will be available.

3 p.m. - March through downtown Lebanon. Participants should meet at the Lebanon Post Office. The march will proceed west on Main Street, north on Proctor Knott Avenue, west on ML King Avenue and right on Depot Street. The walk will end at First Baptist Church on Depot Street.

3:30 p.m. - MLK celebration at First Baptist Church, located on Depot Street in Lebanon. William Turner of Berea College will be the guest speaker.