Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cincinnati celebrates 48th annual MLK Day

Cincinnati's 48th annual MLK Day march departs the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center on its way through downtown to Washington Park
Nick Swartsell
Cincinnati's 48th annual MLK Day march departs the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center on its way through downtown to Washington Park

Hundreds turned out to commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a march through downtown Cincinnati and a program at Music Hall.

The events planned by the Cincinnati MLK Coalition centered around the theme, "Reckoning with Chaos, Creating Community," which King explored in the final book he published before his death in 1968. Organizers said the theme is appropriate given current political, racial and economic tensions in America.

Singing "We Shall Overcome," marchers departed from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center after a brief series of prayers by faith leaders from multiple belief traditions.

Gary Dixon of Cincinnati was among the marchers. Despite pain in his legs, he came out to pay respects to the civil rights movement as he has done for a number of years.

"I just came to commemorate MLK," he said. "It's something I've done traditionally. This is probably the last time. My legs are shot, and I don't know if I can make it again."

The march ended at Washington Park with more prayer and songs before moving to a program at Music Hall.

That event featured music by the MLK Chorale, poetry and speeches. MLK Day MC and WLWT anchor Steven Albritton memorialized civil rights activist and MLK Coalition member Francis Canty, who participated in the legendary freedom rides as a college student in the early 1960s.

A graduate of Withrow High School, Canty had already been very active in the civil rights movement the day she walked into a whites-only waiting room at a Greyhound bus station in Jackson, Miss., to protest Jim Crow laws. She was arrested and sentenced to 60 days in jail.

Albritton said the act showed her commitment to the cause.

"She felt like she wanted to step in and actually do something," he said. "She had moral courage, moral integrity. And that was very much the Francis Canty that we came to know."

Later, keynote speaker All-In Cincinnati Executive Director Denisha Porter drew parallels between King's mission and the current need for racial and economic justice in Cincinnati, where she said poverty and inequity are still major issues.

"Leaders in private, public nonprofit and philanthropic sectors must commit to putting all residents on the path to economic security," she said. "Dr. King acknowledged the enormity of this task when he said 'difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future.' "

Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.