Sprinkled throughout Greenville there are “city limits” signs and atop those signs are the words “Welcome. We are building an inclusive community.”

Helping to bring those words to life are the Greenville Human Relations Council, the mayor and the city manager’s office, which collaborated last summer to establish an endeavor called Connecting People: Listening to the Heartbeat of Our Greenville Community.

As part of that effort, close to 100 people gathered on Wednesday evening in the Council Chambers at Greenville City Hall to attend an event called Celebrating the Heartbeat of Our Greenville Community, to hear an official proclamation about Greenville’s stance on inclusivity read by the mayor.

From the proclamation Mayor P. J. Connelly read, “... Be it resolved that the City of Greenville, North Carolina is a welcoming and inclusive community to people of all backgrounds, national origins, races, ethnicities and cultures.”

Connelly read several considerations that were taken into account to arrive at the final resolution, including that “Greenville is a great place to live, work and visit no matter who you are or where you come from” and that the city “denounces all acts of violent domestic extremist groups, hatred and racism.”

The proclamation also includes the words, “Adopted this 15th day of January, 2020” and is signed by the mayor.

It is no coincidence that the Heartbeat event was held on Wednesday, according to Bob Hudak, chairman of Connecting People: Planting Seeds to Dismantle Racism, a subcommittee of the Human Relations Council, and one of the organizers of the event. Jan. 15 is the birthday of the slain civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I hope Dr. King would be smiling upon us tonight as we celebrate the heartbeat of the Greenville community,” Hudak said.

Samar Badwan, chairwoman of the Human Relations Council, said that she was pleased with the turnout at the ceremony.

This official proclamation is something people have sought since last summer, based on feedback that the Human Relations Council received at previous Heartbeat gatherings, she said.

The first gathering was held on Aug. 29, shortly after President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Greenville. The rally elicited negative publicity for the city because some people chanted “send her back” after the president said Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota had made anti-American statements.

Addressing the audience on Wednesday night, Hudak said the publicity painted “Greenville throughout the country and even the world as a community we are not.”

Those attending at the program viewed a video, “I Am Diversity: Please Include Me” produced by Kelvin Thomas, communications specialist/videographer with the City of Greenville.

The video features Greenville residents who represent a diverse cross section of national origins, races, ethnicities and cultures.

“The faces and voices of the members of our community we saw and heard in (the video) form a living portrait of what God’s ‘beloved community’ looks like on this 91st birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Hudak told the audience.

The event also included music performed by Stephen Brand of Love Joy Music and the choir from Reimage Church.

The program was broadcast live on Greenville’s government access channel GTV-9 and will continue to be shown for the next few months. It also will be able to viewed on the City of Greenville’s website, organizers said.

A complete copy of the proclamation will also be made available on the city’s website, according to Cassandra Daniels, community relations officer for the City of Greenville.

Karen Eckert can be reached at 252-329-9565 or at keckert@reflector.com.