This year's annual Eighth of August Emancipation Day Celebration's theme is "The Future is Now!" and will focus on tying the present to the future envisioned by those at the signing of the Civil Rights Act.
The annual event, celebrating the day when word of the Emancipation Proclamation was brought to the region, is organized by the W.C. Young Community Center, as it has done for nearly 40 years. Last year's celebration marked the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
This year's celebration will recognize a significant piece of legislation that helped to promote equal rights. This year is the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Geco Ross, the event coordinator, said the theme of "The Future is Now!" will help people to see the present in a more historical context.
"We're 50 years on now, we are the future they were speaking of," said Ross of the leaders and activists who helped to pass the Civil Rights Act in 1964. "We're trying to make the connection of all the progress we've made in civil and human rights since then."
The festivities kick off tonight with a pair of youth events. A Back to School Street Dance, for youth of all ages, will be held at the W.C. Young Community Center, 505 S. Eighth St., starting at 6 p.m. A Back to School Party, for high school students only, will be held at the Robert Cherry Civic Center, 2701 Park Ave., at 8 p.m.
On Thursday, at 7 p.m., an open house at the W.C. Young Center will recognize community members and leaders who have made an individual impact in the fight for civil rights. In addition to the open house event, a career fair for youth will be held at the same location.
Numerous events are planned for the Eighth itself, which falls on Friday. Included among the events are a 7 a.m. breakfast at the Young Center, a family fun day at Robert Coleman Park starting at noon, and an Emancipation Dance at the Civic Center at 9 p.m.
On Saturday, events planned include a parade at 11 a.m., featuring new Murray State University President Robert Davies as grand marshal. He will be joined by Arlene Keyes, one of the first African-American students at MSU. At noon, another family day will be held at Robert Coleman Park. At 9 p.m., an "All White Affair" gala will be held where attendees are encourage to wear white clothing.
Finally on Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Paducah Tilghman High School Auditorium, there will be a salute to gospel music and a memorial service.
Contact Daniel Paxton, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8667.
Emancipation Day activities
Breakfast at WCY Community Center, 7 a.m. Friday.
Family Fun Day at Robert Coleman Park, noon-dusk Friday.
Emancipation Dance at Robert Cherry Civic Center, 9 p.m. Friday.
Parade, starting at Washington Street and Walter Jetton Boulevard at 11 a.m. Saturday
All White Affair Gala at Robert Cherry Civic Center, 9 p.m. Saturday.