Most aspects of West Virginia's sesquicentennial celebration are set for later this week, but one part has already begun.
A series of events celebrating the political, educational and cultural impact of African-Americans on West Virginia kicked off Sunday afternoon at the state Culture Center.
Charleston's Tuesday Morning Group is the host of the Juneteeth Celebration continuing through Wednesday. The series is named for the holiday observed on June 19 known as Juneteenth. It marks the day in 1865 when slaves in Galveston, Texas, first learned of their emancipation.
The first event Sunday afternoon featured a potpourri of cultural contributions.
Rev. Ron English, Tuesday Morning Group event coordinator, said in his introduction he hopes the series will highlight the innumerable contributions to the state made by African Americans from its founding 150 years ago up to present day.
Musicians from the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame performed selections from notable African American inductees including Bill Withers and Nat Reese.
Lipton called Withers "the patriarch of West Virginia music," saying his music defied traditional classifications and labels.
"His music embodies the diversity and the hard-to-pin-down description of West Virginia," Lipton said.
Affrilachian (a blend of African American and Appalachian) poetess Crystal Good then performed a reading of her piece "Black Diamonds," a poem about the plight of African American miners.
"This poem is dedicated to the black miners," she said. "Whether they mine salt, silica or coal."