Online MLK Day program scheduled for Monday

In this photo taken from the inaugural MLK Day program in 2016 by Times Leader reporter Stacey Menser, a community chorus including (from left) Nancy Taylor, J.D. Wilson, Gale Cherry, Kenneth Godshall, Gladys Sims, Ty Englebright (behind the singers) and Shirley Fritz performed. The program promises to showcase talent in music and writing this Monday.

The sixth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day program will be affected by COVID-19 concerns, but the changes may allow more people to view it.

The recorded program can be seen online beginning at noon Monday, provided at wpkyonline.com.

The local program began in 2016 with members of the Central Presbyterian, Harrison Street Baptist, Princeton First United Methodist, Shepherd Street Baptist, Spillman Chapel and St. James Cumberland churches coordinated the program with guidance from Ken Godshall, the former pastor of Central Presbyterian Church.

Now, several local businesses take part in planning the program.

“He had always thought, ‘How can we come together in Princeton?’ ” said Princeton City Council member Pat George, a member of the program’s organizing committee. “He had several ideas, and this was his idea: ‘Let’s try this; let’s celebrate Dr. King’s day or birthday or ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.’ ”

“It’s usually a luncheon, but due to COVID restrictions, we can’t have the luncheon,” she said. “We actually can’t have an in-person celebration this year.”

George said that since the program is pre-recorded and available online, people can view the program at their leisure.

“If you’re busy Monday, you might want to watch it later on in the week, but it will be there,” she said.

There was brief talk about not having a program this year, but George said the problems that the nation is going through make such a message of hope even more important.

“At times like this, we need something like this,” she said.

The guest speaker for this year’s program is Alissa Young, the president of Hopkinsville Community College.

Young is the sixth president and chief executive officer for Hopkinsville community College, attaining her position in August 2017. She led the design and development of the Emerging Technologies capital project and is a trustee for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Christian County Chamber of Commerce.

George said the program will feature local musical talent as well as the winners of the essay contest. Students will read their essays detailing what they can do to make their communities better places.

Those reading include Elizabeth Martin, Katy Trimble and Carter Whittington of Caldwell County High School and Elijah Thomas of Caldwell County Middle School.

“It’s going to be very diverse — something unique, something that’s never been done,” George said of the online presentation. “We’re going to miss seeing our friends and family and having that fellowship with them, but the program has always been well supported by the citizens of Princeton.”

George said that others can join the program’s organizing committee by contacting one of the members through their Facebook page.

“Give us some ideas,” she said. “It takes the whole town or the whole village to come together to make things happen like this.”