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Martin Luther King Jr. event celebrates unity

by Paul Leakan

STAFF WRITER

As area residents clasped each other's hands and sang "Amazing Grace," many believed the message swirling through Clarksburg City Hall Friday couldn't be clearer.

It was a message not only of honor, remembrance and reverence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but a message of unity.

Educators, students and public officials helped convey that message together, huddling inside council chambers Friday for "An Evening with the Words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."

Sponsored by the city's Unity Project, the Habitat for Humanity and the U.S. Small Business Administration, the event drew dozens of residents who took part in reading several of King's writings and passages.

Students from several parts of the county read essays they wrote on their interpretations of King's "I Have A Dream" speech.

Then, Clarksburg native James Griffin read King's "I Have A Dream" speech in its entirety.

Mayor David Kates was visibly moved by the turnout and the overall message of hope and unity at the core of Friday's gathering.

"I'm excited not just from what's happening tonight," he said. "I'm excited because we're going to reach out to every ethnic group in the city.

"It takes everybody to make it happen here in Clarksburg."

Kates made sure to get residents involved during his speech, calling on everyone to applaud the city's efforts to embrace diversity and unity.

"Some folks say this is a waste of time," he said. "But believe me, there are more folks with you than against you."

Allen Lee, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was also impressed by the efforts to promote unity.

"Clarksburg is well on the way up the hill," he said.

Kates and Jim Hunt, chair of the city's Unity Project, said they want to continue building and cultivating a sense of unity among city residents.

And the city will soon have a more permanent reminder of those efforts.

Kates and Hunt unveiled a new city sign that will soon greet people as they enter the city. The green and white sign reads: "Welcome to Clarksburg. We Celebrate Diversity."

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