City-Wide King Celebration Answers the Question to Event’s Theme, “Where Do We Go From Here?”
The annual Martin Luther King Celebration in Kleinhans Music Hall last pm January 15th was not only an awesome display of local talent, but an important and timely reminder of Dr. King’s legacy of faith and struggle in his quest to end racism and injustice; a legacy that should compel us to continue do the work necessary until the job is complete.
Dr. Erika D. Gault, a remarkable young woman of clarity and vision, delivered a short, but powerful message. Like Dr. King, we must develop the capacity to “criticize and energize” she said. King, she pointed out, called critical attention to man’s inhumanity to man; to racial hatred, bigotry and White supremacy. He refused to accept these realities, took action against them and with the vision of God’s Kingdom, energized African Americans as well as all people of good will to take a stand. As she listed a litany of current injustices both locally and nationally, from the denigration of President and Mrs. Obama by local businessman and school board member Carl Paladino, to the unjust killing of unarmed Black men nationwide , she said we are obligated to continue King’s work for the liberation of our people and ultimately the salvation of the country. “You can’t say you can’t find work to do!” she said.
What would Dr. King say to us today, she asked rhetorically? Basically to keep the faith because God is still in charge and all is not lost. Quoting Dr. King she continued: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” In the end, she assured, the Kingdom of God will win, but we will have to go to work until that day comes . Channeling the spirit of King she declared, “There will be justice in the White House and justice in the street!” She received a standing ovation.
Dr. Gault, assistant professor of history and religion at Hilbert College, is organizing a youth symposium and poetry slam February 11 in the Johnston Theater at Elmwood Franklin School. For more information go online to njoziensemble.com
The commemoration has been coordinated for the past 11 years under the dedicated guidance of Bessie Patterson. Youth were prominent in the program which included amazing performances by Angel Vox, the Olmsted High School Band, Torri Young, Miss Barbara’s School of Dance, the Friendship Praise Dance Ministry, the Buffalo Academy for the Visual & Performing Arts Choir, and the African American Cultural Center Dancers. The Recognition of Students portion of the show evolved into an auditorium-wide youth tribute with Mrs. Patterson issuing a timely message to young people and personally inviting all the youth in the audience on stage. Also, performing was Melody Rhodes, Kiesha Adamczyk-Bennett, the Buffalo Usher’s Association and Atlanta-based comedian Willie Brown & Woody.
Serving with Mrs. Patterson as co-hosts and presenters were W/C Brandy, Dr. James Lewis III, Evangelist Anita Williams and Elder Craig Pridgen. A host of elected officials and dignitaries were in attendance and recognized including newly elected District Attorney John Flynn , State Senator Timothy Kennedy and Mayor Byron Brown who delivered brief remarks.
Seven outstanding citizens – Edna Gayles-Kee, Luz Milagros Ramos, Pastor Richard Stenhouse, Rafael Suarez, Jennifer Whitaker, Pastor James Giles and Sandy White - were the well deserving 2017 honorees. –a.b.