Community Celebration

20th annual event commemorates MLK Jr.

The Inter-Mountain photos by Beth Henry-Vance The Rev. Douglas Lewis holds up a sign of Martin Luther King Jr. during a march designed to celebrate the civil rights leader’s legacy Sunday in Elkins

ELKINS — About 75 people of all ages gathered Sunday afternoon to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

The 20th annual celebration included a march through Elkins, dancing, songs and messages of light, hope and the power of unconditional love. The march began at the Elkins Federal Building and concluded at Woodford Memorial United Methodist Church, where participants gathered for a special program and a potluck meal.

Ann Lawrence, who served as one of the event organizers, welcomed everyone to the program commemorating the life and work of the famous civil rights activist. Lawrence also said she was pleased with the turnout in such cold temperatures.

“I have been happy to be involved in the annual memorial celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. for many years,” Lawrence said. “It makes me so happy to see so many people out in this weather.”

Sponsors for the 2018 celebration included the Elkins Cultural Awareness and Enrichment Group, Riverside School Association, Elkins Main Street, Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps service members, Preservation Alliance of West Virginia and Woodford Memorial United Methodist Church.

One of the speakers Sunday was Davis & Elkins College student Denise Foley, who read “The Meaning of The King Holiday” by King’s wife, the late Coretta Scott King.

A portion of that essay includes the following quote:

“On this day we commemorate Dr. King’s great dream of a vibrant, multiracial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation; a nation that has a place at the table for children of every race and room at the inn for every needy child. … It is a day of interracial and intercultural cooperation and sharing. No other day of the year brings so many peoples from different cultural backgrounds together in such a vibrant spirit of brother and sisterhood. Whether you are African-American, Hispanic or Native American, whether you are Caucasian or Asian-American, you are part of the great dream Martin Luther King Jr. had for America. This is not a black holiday; it is a peoples’ holiday.”

The program also included dancing and songs led by Laurie Goux, a professor at D&E College, who was accompanied on the drums by her son, Khalil Woodward, and AmeriCorps vista Madalyn Humphrey.

Other songs and speakers also were part of Sunday’s program, which featured audience participation with readings of many of King’s inspirational quotes.

Participants noted King fought for rights for people of all races and nationalities. He stood for peace, encouraged social change and spoke out against discrimination and poverty.

King’s birthday was Jan. 15, 1929. The federal holiday to observe his birthday falls on the third Monday of January each year.

Another local event to honor King is scheduled at 6 p.m. today at Davis & Elkins College, in the Robbins Memorial Chapel.