Unity and human rights were the theme for Monday’s State Capitol celebration of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy.
The human rights that Dr. King fought for decades ago persevere to this day.
A symbolic march from a downtown Charleston church to the capitol steps traditionally begins West Virginia’s MLK day ceremony. Fitting for the theme, there was unity among the diverse crowd.
The Capital High School VIP choir’s rendition of the song “Unity” set a melodic and insightful tone.
Among the crowd was nationally recognized journalist, author, women’s rights activist and Muslim Asra Nomani. Born in India, she was raised and educated in West Virginia.
In 2003, Nomani was the first woman in her Morgantown West Virginia mosque to pray in the male-only main hall, a precedent setting and ground breaking action.
Nomani said continuing Dr. King’s crusade for race, religion, creed and gender rights – human rights – is vital for everyday life to move forward.
“It begins with all of us. Social justice and human rights is for all of us,” Nomani said. “Whatever our identity, Dr. Martin Luther King was so clear that we can have no hierarchy of human value, and that is
exactly how we must live in the 21st Century.”
West Virginia State students Diorie Robinson and John Fitzpatrick were among the younger people in attendance who said they stand firm with helping to champion Dr. King and Asra’s Nomani’s human rights campaign:
“I think it’s extremely important. Everyone needs their human rights,” Robinson said. “Everyone in the world matters – no matter what race you are, where you stand in the city, anything like that.”
“A lot of times we just look at it like a lot of people think that Martin Luther King was only fighting for colored people,” Fitzpatrick said. “He was really fighting for all human rights for everybody.”
Another State Capitol MLK day tradition – the Freedom Bell which signifies peace for all. This year, with anti-racism and transgender challenges among human rights issues facing West Virginians, that bell rings with passion and purpose.