LEWISBURG, WV (WVNS) – Lewisburg’s Martin Luther King Jr. day celebration returned in person after two years of being exclusively online.

Folks celebrated diversity, love, and peaceful protest in what was named West Virginia’s most inclusive city in 2021.

The event began with a proclamation given by Mayor Beverly White and continued with a march from the Greenbrier County Courthouse to Lewisburg United Methodist Church. Mayor White told 59News she was thrilled to see lots of children at the ceremony because it gives her hope the younger generation can help break the cycle of discrimination.

“I think it starts at home,” the mayor told 59News. “I call it ‘generational hate’ that parents continue to teach that people are different because of the color of their skin or their gender. We need to get to the point where we are teaching ‘everyone is somebody’s child, how do you want your child to be treated?”

But the event was not just for children. In fact, some people who came to celebrate remember living through the Civil Rights movement. That was the case for Greenbrier Valley NAACP Vice President Clifford Sylvester Curry.

Curry said he remembers idolizing Dr. King and wanting to march alongside him. He also remembers being in school with his friends when he learned his idol had been killed.

“Well I was in Study Hall at the time and it was – I don’t know. It was just… We got all upset and all and we tried to get things together and all,” Curry recalled.

At the church, keynote speaker Crystal Good, a poet and publisher of Black by God the West Virginian, delivered a powerful message about the fight for equality, which focused on the importance of reporting on black issues.

“Freedom of the Press, absolutely,” said Good. “In Dr. King’s last speech, he spoke to the importance of Freedom of the Press. And I think that is an important thing as a publisher to bring up, but also as I look over the past couple months in West Virginia.”

Good reminded attendees even though Lewisburg might be the most inclusive city in the state, we all still have a long way to go in the fight against racism.

At the church service, free KN-95 masks were distributed to folks. COVID-19 cases in Greenbrier County are spiking and expected to rise for at least another two weeks. If you are attending or planning to attend a large indoor gathering in the next month, you may want to consider wearing a mask.

Last week, a pediatrician in Lewisburg reported she was seeing a rush of kids in her office testing positive for COVID. You may want to consider masking up in school or at church, especially if you have any risk factors.