The inauguration of the nation’s first African-American president echoed the promise of progress espoused by one of the most influential figures of social equality, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The 80th anniversary of King’s birthday on Jan. 15 served as a fitting prelude for the realization of King’s dream in the nation’s highest office.
Last week, celebrations at the College commemorated the social triumph of the present while reflecting on the struggles against prejudices in the past.
Students and faculty gathered at the Mildred & Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall on Jan. 21 for “King’s Dream: A Live Concert Multimedia Presentation Dedicated to an American Legend.” The performance was part of the College’s annual program, “Martin Luther King Jr.: Change and Justice.”
The presentation was performed by Philadelphia-based ensemble Key Arts Productions. The show included film footage, songs and narratives highlighting the social unrest of the ’60s and the profound impact of King’s method of civil disobedience.
Joe Patterson, owner of Key Arts Productions, narrated the series of films. The films consisted of clips from the civil rights movement as well as videos of other influential figures from the era, including Rosa Parks, John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X and Lyndon B. Johnson.
The video centered on the pervasive impact of King’s influence despite the social climate of the times. The members of the production company performed intermittently between the narration, opening with the songs “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” and “Amazing Grace.” Patterson accompanied on the piano.
Other featured songs included “What’s Going On,” “Everything Must Change,” “We Shall Overcome” and “Blowing in the Wind.”
The powerful yet smooth sound of the performers inspired the audience to clap and sing along to the familiar songs, expressing the hope of overcoming injustice.
Though the audience was sparse, the enthusiasm of those attending was abundant. The audience’s silence demonstrated the fascination and respect inspired by the performance.
Though the content of the presentation was familiar, Patterson encouraged the audience to examine the civil rights movement from a different perspective.
“What would you have done for the social movement? Would you spend a night in a cold jail cell for your rights? Would you risk your life?” Patterson asked.
The presentation concluded with a video of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the tragic account of his murder.
Patterson completed his narration with an invitation.
“We invite you to do what you can today to make Dr. King’s dream a reality.”
With a new president and a promise of change, the prospect of accomplishing this dream of equality overwhelmingly seems to be “Yes We Can.”
Katie Brenzel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.