CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Church goers in Charleston passionately denounced President Donald Trump’s disparaging comments he’s said to have made about Haiti and African countries during a service to remember the life and legacy of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Members of the community joined hands in unity Monday at the Asbury United Methodist Church to mark what would’ve been King’s 89th birthday.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee.
Monday’s service was put on by the MLK State Holiday Commission. The congregation then participated in the annual march to the state Capitol for a bell ringing ceremony.
Dr. William White, executive director of the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs and chair of the MLK State Holiday Commission, said, unfortunately, there’s still a lot of racial tension across the country.
“Our nation is constantly in this upheaval of all kinds of madness. We have to somehow calm it down. The way we fix it is to push back,” he said. “I think that Democrats and Republicans have been too quiet. We have to push back.”
The commission recognized six people for the 2018 Living the Dream Awards including Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha). During Pushkin’s speech, he said it’s a shame he “couldn’t even quote the President inside a church” — referring to Trump’s alleged comments about why the United States is accepting immigrants from “s—hole counties.”
Pushkin received the Human and Civil Rights honor.
White said it’s important to honor people in the community who advocate for peace and social change every day.
“Giving them an opportunity to get the support and the reinforcement that they got today is absolutely critical — not only for Martin Luther King Day, but for every day,” he said.
King’s legacy has taught us to not be complacent and to stand up for what is right, White said.
“He was about being confrontive, but he was also about non-violence. He also believed that God will get us through,” he said.
The Appalachian Children’s Chorus and the Martin Luther King Jr. Male Chorus each performed musical selections.
Charleston attorney Katherine Dooley was the keynote speaker.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was on hand for Monday’s service. The senator offered these words about the MLK holiday:
“Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of our nation’s most influential and inspiring leaders of all time. Although Dr. King’s life was sadly cut short, he made a lasting and powerful impact on our country by helping millions of Americans fight discrimination and segregation, and by peacefully fighting racial injustice. The revolutionary movement that he led was not only about civil rights, but was also about changing society for the better and instilling unity, love and forgiveness in all of our communities. He inspired communities across our country to improve and make a difference for others and that spirit still lives on in millions of Americans today. As we remember his life and his legacy, I want to remind all West Virginians that we are all capable of making a difference. We must use Dr. King’s values in everyday life and realize our potential to make a difference and take action by helping a neighbor, volunteering and serving in our communities.”
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) also released a statement in honor of Dr. King:
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of history’s most revered figures—and for good reason. His message of compassion and brotherhood, his calls for peace and equality, and his strength of character helped shape our nation and inspire generations. His vision and his actions forever changed our country. Today, we honor the principles and the values Dr. King embodied and fought for, and we remember how important it is that we continue to unite together behind his dream.”