The most visible figure in the Civil rights movement, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is honored across the country annually on the third Monday in January with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Born January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, the holiday falls close to his birthday. As chief spokesman of the movement to end racial discrimination in state and federal laws in the 1950s and 1960s, King organized several marches and peaceful protests. In 1963, he organized the famous March on Washington where he delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. Lewisburg’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration is coming up on Monday, January 21 and will follow the same schedule as last year’s. Let’s revisit the scene for the celebration from last year. (pictured above: Amaria Viney during the 2018 MLK celebration. Photo courtesy Jaimie Wykle).
The turnout for that day was most excellent with splendid weather contributing. At 11 AM, outside the courthouse and right before the march, the speakers, Pastor Kathie Holland of the New Vision Baptist Church in White Sulphur Springs, Lewisburg Mayor John Manchester, and Twana Jackson of New River Community and Technical College set the mood of celebration, tribute, and resolve. Following the march to the Lewisburg United Methodist Church and a free lunch, there was a program of singing, dancing, oration, and children’s essays and art which made it a perfect day of community togetherness and hope.
Meanwhile, video-maker, Rich McMahan, was busy with his camera and microphone. He asked many people for extemporaneous answers to the question, “Why is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration important for you?” Nineteen of their responses made it into his nine-minute video that was shared lots of times on Facebook Messenger. Now the words of these people appear in print.
Before the march, Edgewood Presbyterian Church pastor, Larryetta Ellis, who was the 2018 keynote speaker during the program at the church, and before the march she said, “I’m here this morning to celebrate Martin Luther King Day because a people who forget their past are destined to repeat it. We’re here to remember the dream. We’re here to remember what Dr. King and others alongside of him did, and what others today still do.
Right after the march, John Manchester asserted, “The Dr. Martin Luther King Day Celebration is important to Lewisburg because we’re in trying times, and it allows an opportunity for people to get together, to break bread, to share sentiments, and compare notes on what actions we can take in our community (despite national politics and national craziness) to make this a better place where we all can get along in our community.”
Near the Lewisburg United Methodist Church door, another minister said, “I’m a pastor, so Revelations speaks to the fact that God came for all tongues, nations, and people, and that would include me. I am blessed to be here in West Virginia from Clifton Forge, Virginia to celebrate with some other people, and I’ve already noted from being inside that there’s a mix of races which is what this nation has always been about. I’m here to celebrate that with all kinds of people, nations, and tongues. I’m excited about today.” That was Rev. Roslyn Thomas of the First Baptist Church in Clifton Forge.
A young man who is a West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine student had this to say: ”I joined the march today because I grew up in a small town in Africa where people used to live very close to each other. Today is an opportunity for all of us in this community to have these interactions to overcome obstacles together.” (Photo above: MLK March, 2018. Photo courtesy: Jaimie Wykle).
A teen-aged girl by the name of Willow said, “I think that Martin Luther King Day is important. We stand up for not only black lives and white lives, we stand up for all lives. It’s important that we stand up for everything that matters to us.”
A teen-aged boy said, “My African American family back then used to not have the privileges of white people, but now, due to Martin Luther King, we have those privileges. I’d like to say thank you to him. We still have a ways to go, but we’ll make it.”
A very young African American boy declared, “Martin Luther King gave a speech that changed the world.”
A twenty-something young man who grew up in Iran before moving to West Virginia announced, “We are gathering here today to further the legacy of Martin Luther King because his was one of the most important voices of the Civil Rights Movement.”
Twana Jackson, a member of the planning committee for the event said, “The march in Lewisburg started in the early 80s, and I’ve been participating the whole time. I think it’s important to continue this march because I do believe that God created us all equal and until everyone is treated equally and fairly we need to strive to make that happen…I will encourage others, particularly our youth to participate in functions like this that show we can come together diversified, have the same common goals, and work toward those.”
Lauren Wadsworth who has worked on the Summit on Race Matters in Lewisburg said, “I march today because I feel that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words are still so relevant in these times that are so full of division and his vision for this country being a place that looks up its ideals of respecting everyone is essential to not only celebrate but to be inspired to carry forth.”
Lewisburg’s 2019 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration on January 21 will offer all people another opportunity to share in a most important community event. The Facebook event page is titled, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration and your Facebook friends would appreciate your invitation to the event.
– Larry Davis. Photos courtesy: Jaimie Wykle. Hashtag #109. January 2019.