The following blog is a follow up to Olivia’s post about her AmeriCorps VISTA service with Fahe through the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky. The Freedom March held in Lexington is an annual component of the commemoration to the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. AmeriCorps VISTA are invited to participate to celebrate MLK’s legacy of service, justice, and opportunity which make up the core values of our organizations.
On Monday, I got to be one of the 1,000 people that marched through Downtown Lexington in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. The experience was surreal. The Freedom March has been an annual event since the 1980s, but this was the first time I had gotten to experience it.
While I have never envisioned myself participating in a march, (as an introvert, I naturally flee from crowds of people) I walked into Heritage Hall with an open mind and open heart. I was greeted by a wave people trying to find their groups, a woman singing to the crowd, and cameras being pointed in all directions. While walking into such commotion would usually be overwhelming, I felt calm. Everywhere I turned, I was met with kind eyes and a smile. We were all here for the same reason, to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and remembering the dream he was fighting for.
As the march started, I ended up holding a part of our organization’s banner. While that was unexpected, I decided to take in stride. We followed the crowd out the doors into the 20 degree weather, but the cold and snow didn’t faze anyone as the crowd pushed on. As we marched, people gathered around us to witness what was happening, watching from their offices, storefronts, and parking garages. Reporters came into the crowd to get pictures and ask people for interviews. Police officers lined the route stopping traffic and ensuring our safety. Even city and state officials had joined in on the march.
As I let go of the banner to catch my breath and take in the moment, I saw organizations from around the area pass by me. From local to regional, all kinds of organizations, families, and individuals had come to partake in this. While 1,000 people were marching through the streets, there was no fighting. There was no panic. There was only peace and respect shown to each other and shown for the movement. It was beautiful.
As I continued to fall behind my group, I watched as complete strangers thanked one another for coming. I watched as people yelled out from the crowd to thank the officers for their service, and I watched as people made conversation with each other as they passed by. For any community come together in such a way is amazing, but for a community as large as this, it was breathtaking.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Dr. King’s words echoed through my thoughts as I watched love and hope be poured out onto the streets of Downtown Lexington Monday morning. This was an experience I will forever be grateful for. It is something I would do again in a heartbeat, and I cannot wait to see what next year brings.