Secretary Jill Upson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Saturday marks the beginning of statewide efforts to honor the legacy of slain Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

Executive Director of the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs Jill Upson says she’s honored to carry that legacy to the next generation:

“Being in this position, it gives me an opportunity to help the younger generation understand the significance of what he was able to do and how he was able to do it,” Upson says.

She says the principles of non violence that were a hallmark of Dr. King’s approach made an impact.  “Not only did it change people’s perception in this country, but it also changed laws that we had on the books and began to right a lot of wrongs.”

Upson is chair of the Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday Commission.  She invited students around the state to get involved in a contest.  On Saturday, the winners will be recognized. “Film, song, posters, essays — we really want to encourage students statewide to enter these contests because it is an opportunity for them to have their talents and their gifts showcased,” she says.

The Celebration of Diversity awards will be held Saturday, January 13th beginning at noon at the West Virginia Culture Center in Charleston.  The ceremony will be livestreamed at the  Catch the livestream Jan.13 at 12 p.m.

Monday, January 15th.  is the official state holiday commemorating the life of Dr. King.  On that day, there will be an Ecumenical Service at the Culture Center beginning at 9:30 a.m. with speaker Dr. Elisha Lewis.

Lewis, a Louisiana native residing in Charleston, West Virginia, is a professor in West Virginia State University’s Education Department. Crowned Mrs. West Virginia American 2021, she advocates for underrepresented students and actively engages in community service projects and mentoring to support their college, career, and life success.

Dr. Elisha Lewis

Upson talks about the service.  “We will have our symbolic march from the Culture Center to the front of the Capitol where we will have our Bell Ringing Ceremony,” she says.  “We have a lot of exciting vocalists and choirs and a lot of good things in store for people.”

More information about the upcoming events can be found here.