MLK unity march Shepherdstown

August 29, 1998

MLK Unity MarchBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer [enlarge]

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Area residents paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. on Saturday with a mile-long Unity March to commemorate the slain civil rights leader's famous Freedom March on Washington 35 years ago.

Saturday's march began at 11 a.m. at Christ Reformed United Church of Christ on East German Street and ended on the lawn of Asbury United Methodist Church on W.Va. 480. Music, speeches, games and refreshments followed with more than 100 people attending.

The day's main speaker was Debra Hart, director of the West Virginia Equal Opportunity Commission.

Hart said that while the civil rights movement has come a long way since King's march on Aug. 28, 1963, "we still have a long way to go."


She gave credit to the Rev. Ernest Lyles Sr., pastor of Asbury, for his efforts in easing race relations. Because of Lyle's advocacy, Gov. Cecil Underwood and the citizens of West Virginia have begun a dialogue on the subject, Hart said.

The Ku Klux Klan not only is present in Mississippi and Alabama but also in Huntington, W.Va., 30 miles from her home in Charleston, she said. Police brutality isn't just in Washington, D.C., or New York. It's also present in downtown Charleston, she said.

Andrew Bell of Shepherdstown, a retired Peace Corps administrator, also spoke of King's march.

"He had a dream on Aug. 28, 1963, a dream of hope and a dream of faith - faith that we would transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood,'" Bell said, quoting King.

"We came away from that day in 1963 with a renewed spirit and renewed hope," he said. "Today we are told that there is no racism in our society, that we have reached the promised land. We are told we are too sensitive, that we need to try harder and get rid of our attitude and fit in better, that there are more aggrieved groups than us, to stop whining and get on with our separate lives."

Bell said the challenge for the country is for blacks and whites to join hands as they did in 1963.

Other speakers included Shepherdstown Mayor Vince Parmesano; David Dunlop, president of Shepherd College; Taylor Perry, director of pupil personnel for the Berkeley County schools; Sheila Hamilton, past president of the West Virginia Board of Education; Ed Lambert, representing the United Auto Workers local chapter; Helen Bond, assistant professor of education at Shepherd College; and Lyles.

Among those providing music and entertainment were the Multicultural Community Choir, Asbury Might Men of God Chorus, The Ambassadors of Christ Chorus, Barbara Stenger, Ruth Raubertas, Margaret Byrne and Curtis Grantham.

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