Glynis Board Published

W.Va. Senator Kicks Off Virtual Listening Series In Effort To Address Systemic Racism


U.S. Senator Joe Manchin hosted a virtual listening session Friday evening with Reverend Ronald English and other black faith leaders from across West Virginia. It was the first of a planned series of discussions called From Hurt to Healing.

In the wake of national protests prompted by the killing of George Floyd, Manchin’s office announced the series in a news release hoping to “amplify African American voices and encourage every West Virginian and American to think about how we can move forward toward an equal and more just society.”

Sen. Manchin began the online forum quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said riots are “the language of the unheard.” Manchin called for unity and compassion to address systemic racism throughout the state and nation. 

“You don’t care about the color of a person’s skin when you’re 1,000 feet underground in the coal mine. You care about who they are at their core, because that person will help you come home alive to your family.”

Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston from 1972 to 1993, the Rev. Ronald English offered thoughts throughout the virtual listening session. English, who was mentored by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said moving toward a more equitable future would require learning to acknowledge racism where it exists both consciously and subconsciously. He also noted that he was encouraged by youth leadership on display at protest events throughout the country.

“We did not know that kind of leadership and compassion was among us until it showed up in this way,” he said, “and I think that we have found a fertile ground for further leadership advancement and leadership recruitment in the midst of those who have come forward.”

English also pointed to the coronavirus as a component of the civil unrest throughout the nation.

“I think it is by providential design that all of these events came together at the same time, to alert our attention and to stir us from heart, not just from head, in terms of how we move forward.”

English and other faith leaders took questions, discussed issues, such as how to overcome racism when faced with racist leadership, and underscored the need for transparency and accountability.