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Martin Luther King Jr. State Commission

​​​​​​​Martin Luther King Jr. State Commission 2021 Annual Awards Presented Virtually

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 18, 2021) – The Martin Luther King Jr. State Commission has announced winners of the 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Awards, including Leadership Awards to Edward Earl Taylor of Campbellsville and youth recipient Ricky Edwards of Louisville. Winners were announced via video this morning on the annual holiday celebrating Dr. King's life and legacy.

The commission is administratively attached to the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office, awards co-sponsor along with the Kentucky Historical Society. The video was introduced by acting commission chair Kevin Russell of Radcliff with an invocation by member Wanda Washington of Campbellsville, followed by a greeting from Gov. Andy Beshear.

"I am so honored to be joining you virtually today for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. awards recognizing community leaders for their service and dedication to building a more just, equal, and a better world for all. In my opinion this recognition is one of the highest honors one can receive as it carries the name of one of our greatest leaders and activists," said Gov. Beshear. "You are doing the groundwork to make real, impactful change... building on the progress Dr. King made in helping to create a better world for all our people."

KET public affairs, managing producer and host Renee Shaw was the keynote speaker, framing recent events in our state and nation's history with her personal journey and challenging others to consider "what is 2021 calling on us to do?"

"It's heartening to learn of the poetry and art submissions of students across this Commonwealth answering the question of how this civil rights icon would inspire the nation if he were alive today," she said. "Many of us wrestle with that question now more than ever."

 An Army veteran, Taylor was recognized for dedicating his life to living by Dr. King's principles as a community leader. He is an associate member of the Taylor County Civic League involved in the group's annual MLK celebrations and meal distribution for families in need. He is vice president of the Historic Durham School Reunion Committee, supports the local H.O.P.E. Project that provides housing and other services for those in need, mentors and instructs minority youth in basketball and golf, and is an active member at First Baptist Church of Campbellsville, where he directs the men's choir.

Edwards was recognized for starting Project Crescendo and inspiring change in the Louisville community. Project Crescendo pairs underprivileged middle school students who are interested in music lessons with high school students who are distinguished in music performance. He and Taylor received commemorative plaques from the commission.

Student awards encourage youth to express themselves creatively through essays, visual art and poetry. The following winners will receive a certificate signed by the Governor:

Student Art Contest, Elementary School

First place David Lawless, 4th grade, Johnsontown Road Elementary School; second D'zandrae Hartley, 4th grade, Northern Elementary School; third Sebastian Barnett, 4th grade, Elkhorn Elementary School

Middle school

First place Donyale Artis, 8th grade, Holmes Middle School; second Abigail Morgan, 7th grade, Larue County Middle School; third Sophia Maresca, 7th grade, Oldham County Middle School

High School

First place Riley Gordon, 11th grade, Frankfort High School; second Aspen Reynolds, 9th grade, Western Hills High School

Student Poetry Contest, Middle School

First place Mirabel Tsetse, 6th grade, Campbell County Middle School

High School

First place Jinniah Ali and second Hanna Wright, both 11th grade, Frankfort High School

Student Essay, Elementary School

First place Kiana Mack, 4th grade, Mary Todd Elementary School

Middle School

First place Erica Wurth, 8th grade, Paducah Middle School; second and third, Maggie McDonald and Cecily Smith, both 8th grade, Capital Day School

High School

First place Ainsley Beaven, 11th grade, Union County High School; second and third, Lucy Cunningham, 10th grade and Diamond Moore, 11th grade, Frankfort High School

The video ceremony is available at this link

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An agency of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office is responsible for the identification, protection and preservation of prehistoric resources and historic buildings, sites and cultural resources throughout the Commonwealth, in partnership with other state and federal agencies, local communities and interested citizens.


The Martin Luther King Jr. State Commission is composed of members appointed by the Governor from diverse backgrounds in Kentucky life, including individuals associated with labor, industry, commerce, government, civil rights, education, youth organizations, sports, fine arts, and entertainment.

The Commission’s mission is to:

  • Promote the annual MLK holiday each January as an occasion to reflect upon the principles of racial equality and nonviolent social change as espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Encourage appropriate ceremonies and activities relating to the MLK holiday.

  • Promote community service in honor of the principles taught by Dr. King.

  • Provide advice and assistance to local governments and private organizations with respect to observance of the holiday.

  • Promote the holiday for interracial cooperation and youth antiviolence initiatives.

  • Whereas, we honor this mortal man, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who made the ultimate sacrifice; therefore, it is the Commission’s intention to promote unity, equality and justice for all people in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the United States and the world.

Commission Members

Kevin L. Russell, Radcliff, Chair

Caroline Atkins, Morehead

Megan Bailey, Bowling Green

Stan L. Holmes, Vine Grove

Althea Jackson, Louisville

Jamaal Jackson, Frankfort

Ruth D. Lynch, Hopkinsville

Natasha Murray, Lexington

Ashley M. Parrott, Louisville

Isaiah Stovall, Lexington

Melvin L. Turner, Louisville

Katrisha Waldridge, Frankfort

Wanda Washington, Campbellsville

Next Meeting Monday, Sept. 20

The Kentucky Martin Luther King Jr. State Commission will meet again at 1 p.m. EDT Monday, Sept. 20 via Zoom. The meeting is open to the public and an agenda is available​.

To access the meeting​:

Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:

    Password: 867485

Or Telephone:


    USA 713 353 0212

    USA 8888227517 (US Toll Free)

    Conference code: 827973

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Martin Luther King Jr. State Commission Statement

Adopted by the commission Jan. 13, 2021

We, the members of the Martin Luther King Jr. State Commission, strongly condemn the violent acts that took place at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. The chaos that was wrought on that day is a direct result of deliberate and persistent efforts to create confusion and turmoil surrounding a democratic election.

While we are aware that it is the constitutional right of the people to peacefully assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances, the violent acts that took place in Washington, D.C. went far beyond. The terroristic actions of that day created multiple fatalities and injuries.

Furthermore, we denounce all hate and terror tactics used to intimidate fellow citizens because of their race, religion, political views, or any other difference. We are optimistic and urge that all perpetrators are held accountable.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."  
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.