The 27th annual Dr. Martin Luther King , Jr. Commemorative Unity Walk Celebration will be held this Friday morning.
The event will begin at 8:15 a.m. at Bank Street A.M.E. Church on East Fifth Street in Russellville and the walk will then proceed to the old Logan County Courthouse where a program, along with a question and answer session with local high school students, will take place.
“Our speakers are going to be good this year,” said Marvinia Neblett of Community Projects Inc., which organizes the event.
The keynote speakers will be Dr. Rana Johnson from the Kentucky Department of Post-secondary Education and the Reverend, Dr. Kelly Miller Smith, the pastor of First Baptist Church Capitol in Nashville.
“We’ve been trying to get Dr. Smith here for about three or four years,” Neblett said. “He said he was coming and we are so happy for that.”
Dr. Smith continues the legacy of his father as the new pastor of historic First Baptist Church Capitol in downtown Nashville. The Kelly Miller Memorial Bridge in Nashville is named after his father, Rev. Kelly Miller Smith, Sr. who strengthened the Nashville sit-in movement.
“He will speak to us about his experiences and understanding in relations to the theme,” Neblett said.
Dr. Smith has over 30 years of religious and business leadership experience. His accomplishments include the establishment of two church-related academies, one of which is pre-school called the Garden of Discovery Learning Center, and the other is a music school called the Mount Olive Music Academy.
He is also the Executive Director of the Sunday School Publishing Board of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., the Nashville-based publisher of Christian church literature.
Dr. Smith received a B.A. degree in Music from Morehouse College in 1976. He later attended Morehouse School of Religion of the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 1983. In 1993, he received a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, where he was a Proctor-Moss Fellow.
Dr. Rana Johnson’s primary responsibility includes assisting Kentucky’s public postsecondary education institutions with cultivating academic communities that encourage and support diversity through the development of strategies to recruit, retain, and graduate a diverse student body, in addition to employing a diverse workforce to serve as mentors and role models to both majority and minority students.
Her areas of interest include: early preparation for postsecondary education, closing the achievement gap, adapting and persisting in K-12 to expand the graduate pipeline, promoting higher education to traditional and non-traditional students in rural areas, and the impact of cultural adaptation on minority student persistence at traditionally white institutions.
She previously served as an Associate for Equal Education opportunities, as well as Senior Associate. Prior to her tenure at CPE, she served as a research and teaching assistant at the University of Kentucky and Eastern New Mexico University.
Dr. Johnson assisted with implementation of the Kentucky plan, as well as the partnership Agreement with the U. S. Department of Education, office for Civil Rights from 1999-2008.
Dr. Johnson received a Bachelor of Science degree from Spalding University in Mass Communication, a Master’s degree from Eastern New Mexico University in Speech Communication, and a Doctoral degree from the University of Kentucky in Intercultural and Interpersonal Communication.
“Our community, parents, leaders, elected officials, representatives of different organizations, schools, churches, businesses and groups are invited to attend to support our youth and be a part of the question and answer session on how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘s philosophies impacted their lives in our community,” Neblett said.