PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - What's Next Wood County celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by holding a community conversation about inclusion in the Mid-Ohio Valley Monday night.
Local officials including Wood County Commissioner David Blair Couch and Parkersburg Police Chief Joseph Martin made an appearance. Panelists and community residents provided anecdotes about their experiences living in the area.
Jean Ambrose, the organizer of the event, believes inclusion starts with a simple conversation.
"If people don't share their experiences with other people they can't be mad at them if others don't understand what their lives are like," she said.
"So this is an opportunity for people to share their lives with other citizens in an environment that really welcomes honest and civil conversation."
Dr. Emmanuel Ogwude, one of the panelists, said diversity and inclusion go hand-in-hand.
"I've been here since 1974. I still feel foreign," he said.
"But that's because we're not including people. We're getting diversity but we're not including this diverse group and so because we're not doing that we're not getting the synergy that comes from diversity and that's one of the things that we have to work on. I think inclusiveness can give us that synergy that we need."
What's Next Wood County plans to put on a similar event next month.
And over at Zion Baptist Church, people came from throughout the area to celebrate the life of the civil rights pioneer Sunday afternoon.
Mayor Tom Joyce joined Pastor Charles Grays and his congregation at the Parkersburg church.
While speaking at the pulpit, Joyce said Dr. King's message still resonates today.
"He fought a tremendous fight and he stood up against hatred and bigotry and evil," he said.
"But the message right there of helping others that's something let's be honest everybody can't change the world myself included but we can all live a life where we are helping others and I really believe if you do that you're building the right kind of treasures."