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Wheeling MLK Day Celebration Goes Virtual

Photo by Joselyn King Members of Wheeling University’s Black Student Union march down Wheeling Hill during a prior Interfaith March For Peace And Justice. This year’s march was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, but MLK Celebration Committee members will hold a remembrance online.

WHEELING — Annual events to celebrate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have been canceled in Wheeling this year, but a remembrance of the civil rights leader will take place online.

MLK Celebration Committee Co-Chairs Rev. Ignatius Sasmita, S.J. and Ron Scott Jr. have announced the annual march slated for Sunday and other events “have been cancelled out of an abundance of caution and to adhere with the State of West Virginia guidelines.”

The committee instead has added a video that will pay tribute to King’s legacy.

“During our recent meeting, the committee made the difficult decision to not hold the annual March. Given the increased number of COVID cases locally, our members believe protecting the health and safety of our community is most important at this time,” said Fr. Sasmita.

To involve the community in the celebration, the MLK Committee has compiled video presentations from lay and religious community leaders, musical recordings from area choirs and individuals, and readings from students and athletes from Wheeling University. This presentation will be available for the local community to view Sunday.

“We are planning for a virtual celebration,” Scott said. “We recorded a lot of dignitaries in the area. We have some elected officials, we have some church pastors, and they all recorded some messages about Martin Luther King Jr.

“We’re compiling it all together, and we will be releasing it online.”

Scott said Pastor Alan Flaitz of Fourth Street United Methodist Church in Wheeling has recorded and has edited all of the readings, testimonials, musical recordings, talks and award presentations into a hour-long video, which can be viewed on the Committee’s Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/mlkjrwheeling as well as Wheeling University’s YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/user/WheelingJesuitUniv and on West Liberty’s Topper Station https://topperstation.com/diversity-committee.

Other events canceled for this year are the interfaith prayer service and the community banquet where the annual winners of the MLK and Rosa Parks awards are announced.

Ellen Saunders of Moundsville and Judi Saunders of Bridgeport are this year’s honorees of the Rosa Parks Award, while Daniel Dudley of Wellsburg and Chase Watts of Martins Ferry will receive the Martin Luther King Award for their contributions in eliminating racial inequity and promoting peace and harmony in the local area.

— Ellen Saunders is the administrative assistant at Laughlin Chapel. She is a lifelong member and an exhorter/steward at Wayman AME Church in Wheeling, and president of the Women’s Missionary Society. In this capacity she works with members and other local charities on Blossoms, a program that provides resources for homeless women one Saturday each month.

— Judi Saunders has worked at Laughlin Chapel since 2016, first as a mentor and now as coordinator of the after-school program. A lifelong member of Wayman AME Church, Judi Saunders has been the church financial secretary for the past 20 year and is active in Laughlin Chapel’s Blossoms program for homeless women,

— Dudley is a Wellsburg Councilman, representing the city’s first ward. He is only the second African American to win a council seat in Wellsburg. Dudley worked for Eagle Can Manufacturing for 43 years. Before retiring in 2015, he served as a union representative and volunteered on the Eagle Manufacturing Unions Civil Rights Committee. He is also a member of the Wheeling branch of the NAACP.

— Watts is an Ohio State Trooper who founded and serves as executive director of Books with Badges, a reading program for elementary students that works to build trust and positive relationships between students and emergency responders. He also recently opened SoundBox Studios, and uses it to let all artists from any genre come to record their music and pursue their passions

The MLK Day breakfast set for Monday morning — where winners of the Martin Luther King Jr. Project on Racism essay contest are honored — also has been canceled.

The Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs (HHOMA) will host a virtual award ceremony to celebrate the contest and accompanying poster competition. The ceremony can be viewed at 5 p.m. Saturday on HHOMA’s Facebook page; or at 9:30 p.m. Monday on WV Public Broadcasting, the West Virginia Channel, directly following the broadcast of the annual Ecumenical Service.

Bethlehem Temple, Shiloh Assembly to Hold MLK Services Sunday

The Rev. Darrell Cummings will hold both in-person and virtual services Sunday at the Bethlehem Apostolic Temple at 330 Main St. in Wheeling and the Shiloh Apostolic Faith Assembly at 3000 Weir Ave. in Weirton. The Wheeling service will begin at 10:30 a.m. and the Weirton service will begin at 12:30 p.m. In-person services will have limited seating. Laurie Labishak will be the guest singer for the services.

The service also will honor five recipients of the church’s 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award — Wheeling Fire Chief Larry Helms, Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott, Ohio County Sheriff Tom Howard, Del. Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, and the late Mike Myer, the longtime executive editor of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register.

Services may be seen on Facebook on the pages for Darrell W. Cummings, Bethlehem Apostolic Temple, or Shiloh Apostolic Faith Assembly. They also can be seen on the websites GreaterLoveMinistriesWV.org or BethlehemApostolicTemple.org, as well as on YouTube at DWCummingsMinistries. There is also a free church app at GreaterLoveMinistriesWV (GL).

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