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Four Kenton Co. Cities Host Civil Rights Leader for Virtual MLK Event

A civil rights leader who started his work at age 14 and has continued it for more than six decades will be the guest speaker on Monday as four Kenton County cities come together for a virtual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Raoul Cunningham was arrested in 1961 as a student demonstrating against segregated public accommodations in Louisville and later, while in college, volunteered for the 1963 March on Washington.

“Mr. Cunningham is a legend, and we’re elated that he agreed to speak at this event,” Covington Mayor Joe Meyer said. “When it comes to the fight for civil rights, his experiences and his fervor are unparalleled.”

The event, which takes place at 6 p.m. Monday, on MLK Jr. Day, is jointly sponsored by the cities of Erlanger, Elsmere, Independence, and Covington.

The Telecommunications Board of Northern Kentucky (TBNK) will carry the event live on its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TBNKonline/live_videos. It’s expected to last about thirty minutes and include brief remarks by the mayors of the four cities in addition to Cunningham’s remarks. It should also be accessible via the four cities’ Facebook pages.

It’s the second year in a row that the four cities have collaborated on the event. Last year’s event at the Erlanger city building attracted well over one hundred people.

This year’s event was forced to go online because of the pandemic, but Erlanger Mayor Jessica Fette said the theme of “compassionate conversation” is a logical progression from last year’s “empathetic listening” theme – and, it’s just a start.

“Over the last year the four mayors have spent time – both together and within our individual cities – listening to people talk about issues, concerns, and experiences,” Fette said. “Now it’s time to have conversations about how we can respond to those things we’ve heard with action. We need to figure out strategic things our cities can do and then implement those things.”

The four mayors plan to hold another formal event later this spring.

Meyer said the conversation is timely, both because of the national holiday Monday and also because of national events over the last year.

“If you look around this country and even this region, we’re not where we want to be – and where we ought to be – in living out Dr. King’s vision as related to justice, equality, rights, and acceptance,” Meyer said. “And whereas most of us can’t change things nationally, we can certainly change things here in Northern Kentucky.”

The mayors said they hoped that Cunningham – who is a member of Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame and was elected to the NAACP National Board of Directors in 2016 – will bring energy and urgency to that effort.

-Staff report

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