State, local leaders gather for Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in Roanoke

The theme of this year’s celebration luncheon was ‘The Struggle Continues for Justice’

ROANOKE, Va. – Elected leaders both locally and nationally gathered during the 2023 MLK Celebration Luncheon with the Roanoke Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and Congressman Ben Cline were distinguished guests at this year’s luncheon. They were joined by Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea, members of the city council, the school board, and more.

Kaine gave remarks on the impact Dr. King had on him, adding he can remember the assassination like it was yesterday.

“I would say that form of experience of trying to understand who Dr. King was, what his death meant, what his life meant -- that’s all part of what took this guy from Kansas City and I moved to Virginia in 1984 and was a civil rights lawyer for 18 years before I got into politics,” Kaine said.

The luncheon’s keynote speaker this year was President of the State Unit of SCLC Rev. William Keen.

Throughout his speech, Keen often referred to the world as being in a state of ‘racial hypnosis.’ He said while most people remember Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, it often gets misconstrued with what the famous civil rights leader was actually trying to convey.

Keen says Martin Luther King weekend is a time to try and help people understand.

“It’s a day to also educate the masses or people of your role in making sure this dream is kept alive. This is not just a Dr. King dream. This is not just a black man’s dream. It’s a dream for the whole global world,” Keen said.

Kaine will be attending two more MLK events on Sunday in Roanoke. He’ll then head to Petersburg on Monday to participate in a couple more events there.

Kaine says there is still a lot to be done to carry out what Martin Luther King’s dream entailed.

“Has there been progress? Yes, there’s been progress. Southern Christian Leadership Conference wouldn’t have been having their luncheon at Roanoke Country Club 20 years ago right? There’s been progress but it’s not like we’ve solved all the problems,” Kaine said.

About the Author:

Connor Dietrich joined the 10 News team in June 2022. Originally from Castle Rock, Colorado, he's ready to step away from the Rockies and step into the Blue Ridge scenery.