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Apr
18
2024
Village Life

On Monday, Jan. 15 — what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 95th birthday — Yellow Springs turned out in the Bryan Center for the village’s annual commemoration of the civil rights leader. Shown above, local singer Phillip O’Rourke performed “Something Inside So Strong” backed by the World House Choir. (Photo by Matt Minde)

2024 Yellow Springs Martin Luther King program unites, invigorates

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By Truth Garrett

In a moving tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the village of Yellow Springs came together Monday, Jan. 15, to commemorate the 41st anniversary of the federal holiday, established in honor of the civil rights icon on what would have been his 95th birthday. Organized by The 365 Project and hosted by local resident Bomani Moyenda, the event unfolded in the John Bryan Community Center gym, weaving together poignant reflections, inspirational performances and a call for continued activism.

The World House Choir, whose name draws inspiration from Dr. King’s words, opened the program with a moving rendition of the African American national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by James Welden Johnson. The gym, filled with a captivated audience, heard Yellow Springs High School students Damarion Howard, Jaden Douglas, Gini Meekin, Adrian Coe and Sherrod Wheeler deliver heart-rending letters entitled “Dear Dr. King,” highlighting both the triumphs society has made over time and the ongoing need to fight for equality and justice.

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The event’s featured speaker was Queen Meccasia Zabriskie, director and resident fellow at the Coretta Scott King Center for Cultural and Intellectual Freedom. Zabriskie emphasized how injustice and political unrest at various levels can impact the entire nation, concluding her speech by having the audience repeat an affirmation she learned from her mother: “I love myself. I believe in my value and worth. I am powerful. Love Yourself. Believe in your value and worth. You are powerful. We love ourselves. We believe in our value and worth. We are powerful.”

Phillip O’Rouke, accompanied by the World House Choir, delivered a soul-stirring performance of “Something Inside So Strong.” Mad River Theater Works then presented an excerpt from the company’s original play “Keep Marching: The Road to the March on Washington,” exploring the historic event through the eyes of fictional descendants of actual attendees while asking two questions: Why did millions of people choose to go, and what inspired young people in their teens or 20s to attend the march in 1963?

The highlight of the event was the presentation of the 2024 Peacemaker Award to Basim Blunt, a media veteran and long-time Yellow Springs resident. Known for groundbreaking work overseeing Dayton Youth Radio and spinning an eclectic mix of funk, soul, and classic R&B on Thursday nights on WYSO’s “Behind the Groove” music program, Blunt recently left the radio station to found Sankofa Media LLC, aiming to tell stories from the Black, Brown and queer communities in and around Miami Valley.

The World House Choir returned for a final performance, a medley of songs about freedom, featuring soloists Tronee Threat, Damarion Howard and Gini Meekin. Local resident Steve McQueen also spoke, representing Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., the oldest intercollegiate African American fraternity, of which King was a member. McQueen reminded the gathering about the concept of “respire” — the recovery of hope, courage, or strength after a time of difficulty — a term used by King and nearly forgotten in today’s language.

As the echoes of the World House Choir’s freedom-inspired melodies lingered, the Yellow Springs Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2024 celebration came to a close with a poignant acknowledgement from Moyenda recognizing the enduring legacy of the late Nan Harshaw, a beacon of unwavering leadership in the community. In embracing King’s teachings, the event celebrated progress and underscored the imperative to persist in the pursuit of equality and justice for all.

Photos by Matt Minde

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One Response to “2024 Yellow Springs Martin Luther King program unites, invigorates”

  1. Keepin' Cozy says:

    You all should load up the videos to YouTube if you can. I don’t know all about that Zoom thing and it would have been nice to see it. Being so cold and all we didn’t venture out to travel to the village. I think some older adults just do better with YouTube than than the zoom.

    Thank you for the photographs though! I bet that soup was goooood! Bless you.

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