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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

MLK Day becomes a four-day celebration

(+AUDIO)(+VIDEO) Events celebrating MLK's legacy culminates in performance

Published: January 25, 2008
Section: (Audio/Video), Arts, Etc., Audio Segments, Video

SINGING HIS PRAISES: Brandeis gospel choir, Voices of Praise, begin MLK Celebration by singing a black national anthem.It’s not easy celebrating the life of someone as well known and influential as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Maybe that’s why more than ten campus organizations, joined together to organize the third annual MLK Celebration spanning the course of four days.

However a Monday night show, urging social justice and hope for the future, was the peak of the celebration in King’s name.

Voices of Praise, Brandeis’s gospel choir, began the show with a moving rendition of a black national anthem.

Singer and guitarist Tauc gave an acoustic performance of a song about freedom, interwoven with a poetry reading by writer Chris Slaughter. He dedicated one poem, entitled “Touch Butterflies,” to Megan Williams, a 20-year-old black woman from West Virginia, who was kidnapped last year and tortured and sexually assaulted by her white captors for a week before police found her. In the poem, Slaughter asked, “Why can’t we quarantine the world or make it illegal to learn hatred?”

Slaughter ended with a more uplifting poem, demanding that this kind of hatred be abolished immediately.

“Freedom is a bastard child adopted by slavery and was told she was ugly. So now it’s time to remove her makeup and expose her true beauty. It’s freedom time,” he said.

North Quad Director Jerome Holland performed an interpretative dance, clad in all black, except for white face paint, to Yolanda Adams’s song, “Yet Still I Rise.”

Manginah, Brandeis’s Jewish a cappella group, performed a trio of songs, two in Hebrew and one in English, which conveyed a message of hope for the future.

1998 Nuyorican poetry champion Kayo, who also performed at VOCAL 2008, read two poems. The first urged people to social action, to attempt to “move mountains,” even if others thought it was impossible or that they are incapable of enacting change.

“All my people know how to do is point fingers. Instead of blaming ourselves, we blame others,” Kayo lamented in his poem. “How can you point fingers among brothers?”

His second poem, “How do we know?” recounted an instance when he received from his ninth grade teacher for being inquisitive.

Kayo sought to encourage listeners to boldly question everything, even if it is commonly accepted as fact, ending the poem by saying, “If there’s a child and his mind went wild, don’t feed him information that is rehearsed.

“Let me question the unquestionable. Do not stifle what he will say, because this is what is limiting our children today. How do we know?”

Even the event’s host, Associate Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams contributed his own poetry to the show, reciting a haiku he wrote about the re-emergence of the noose as a symbol of hatred, referring specifically to the Jena 6 incident and a Golf Channel anchor’s recent suggestion that if Tiger Woods’s opponents wanted to beat him, they should “lynch him in a back alley.”

The evening culminated in the re-enactment of Dr. King’s “The Drum Major Instinct” speech, the last sermon he gave before his death. Jonathan D’Oleo ’08, dressed in Dr. King’s signature plain black suit, white dress shirt and solid black tie, gave the speech, even going so far as to imitate Dr. King’s accent.

Before delving into the speech, D’Oleo thanked the Brandeis community for “coming year after year to further the dream and transform it into palpable realities.”

The speech focused on the innate human “drum major instinct,” the desire to be up front, to surpass others and to achieve distinction.

King draws upon this instinct to encourage people to “Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity.”

D’Oleo then segued into Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, ending the evening with the words “free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, free at last!”

The other events included in the MLK Celebration were VOCAL 2008, a spoken-word benefit concert; tours of the Brandeis Freedom Trail, which highlighted spots on campus where events of social activism or protest occurred; a jam session hosted by the Brandeis Orthodox Organization and the Brandeis Black Student Organization; and even a visit from U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, who spoke about the urgent need to redefine international perceptions of America