LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Monday marked the 28th time Martin Luther King Jr. Day was observed by the United States, with London and Laurel County being no exception.
While festivities included gospel singing, a fashion show, a photo booth, a march down Main Street, a reading of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, and a dinner, it was Adanma Barton’s speech that ultimately reminded celebrators why they were gathered at the London Community Center.
Barton’s speech began with a quote from a play she wrote with Laurel County’s own Silas House called “This Is My Heart For You.”
“Acceptance and love are the same thing – you can’t have one without the other,” Barton said. “Love is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Martin Luther King. I love the man and I love his message.”
Barton, an assistant professor in Theatre from Berea College, then related her parents’ story of immigration to the United States from Nigeria, escaping a war that claimed three million lives. She claims it was the opportunity for education that brought her parents – one of whom is a decorated professor at Virginia Union University while the other is a nurse – to America.
Barton could not help but continue their appreciation by commending the celebration’s reading of children’s essays. Cameron Baker, who spoke moments before Barton, was awarded monetarily.
“It was always drilled into me and my sisters’ heads: school, school, school. Education is something that they cannot take away from you,” Barton said. “It’s so wonderful to hear young people read their essays and seeing people who are recognized for their talents – it’s so important.”
Barton then related the struggles of her family to achieve the American dream. They faced discrimination in Texas – even while Barton’s father had earned a PhD. – forcing her mother to work two nursing jobs. In Mississippi, Barton claims she lost her innocence when witnessing a Ku Klux Klan march and firebomb in 1987.