In his “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.“
For many of us — I would even say the vast majority of us — the goal of a society that sets this dream into practice is highly desirable. But 55 years after King spoke, institutional racism and white privilege still represent a major impediment to the attainment of equal justice in America.
I can’t help thinking of the pigs in George Orwell‘s Animal Farm, who tried to float the idea that “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” It’s a statement that is absurd on the face of it. There simply cannot be cannot be equal justice for some. None of us is free, until all of us are.
Recently, a youth group from All Pilgrims Congregational church in Seattle retraced the steps of the American civil rights movement. Upon their return, they set out to do something to make a positive impact with respect to racial justice.
Here’s what one of their youth leaders pointed out:
“I think one thing that is really crucial in the work of racial justice, specifically for white people, is to understand that this work cannot be done on the backs of people of color, that our education and our awakening and understanding cannot be something that we are relying on folks of color to teach us.”
In a community like ours, that (according to recent census figures) is over 80 percent white, efforts to bring awareness to and ameliorate institutional racism and white privilege will have to come from white people.
Born from this youth group’s heightened awareness, the group reSound, a Northwest Chamber Ensemble, will perform Let Justice Roll Down – A Multi-Media Musical Journey to Selma and Back.
A 10-voice chamber group that is choir-in-residence at Lynnwood’s Trinity Lutheran Church, reSound is directed by Dr. Stephen Marshall-Ward, who brings a passionate love of choral music and gifted leadership to this small but talented vocal ensemble. Part of reSound’s stated mission is “to design creative connections to engage the heart of our human family.”
Raising awareness within our community about racial justice through music seems like a great fit. Music has long been an effective medium for communicating important messages. We Shall Overcome, and Give Peace a Chance spring to mind.
The City of Edmonds Diversity Commission thought so. The commission has joined The Institute for Social Change Through the The Arts, and several faith-based organizations to provide financial support, awarding a $500 grant to help bring the event to Trinity Lutheran in Lynnwood Sunday, Jan. 27.
This event will feature an exciting performance of “Kyrie,” a new 20-minute work by Stephen Marshall-Ward and Michael Austin Miller. Kyrie will take listeners through the first steps of understanding, showing us what we can do to begin the process toward personally dismantling white privilege, supremacy and racism.
The event features many talented greater Seattle-based musicians, including duo-organists Wanda Griffiths and Stephen Marshall-Ward with reSound; Dave Beck, cello; Kyle Erickson, trumpet; Ian Alvarez, percussion and filmed interviews with Plymouth Youth Forum Members.
“Our desire for this project is that our audience members will gain an understanding of how white privilege and institutionalized racism can be identified in our communities and in our own lives, encouraging people to think and act differently and be willing to enter similar conversations to further the message,” said reSound member Royce Napolitino. “If attendees go on to lead more self-aware lives and are able to articulate what institutionalized racism is, an evolution has happened and change is possible.”
Learn more at www.resoundsings.org.
Let Justice Roll Down – A Multi-Media Musical Journey to Selma and Back
Jan. 27, 7 p.m.
Trinity Lutheran Church
6215 196th St. S.W.
Donations accepted at the door
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Our community is also hosting another event aimed at honoring Dr. King’s legacy. A daylong Tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Inspiring a Beloved Community in Song, Spoken Word and Dance is set for Monday, Jan. 21 — the federal holiday recognizing King — at the Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 4th Ave. N.
The free morning program for children, youth and families will run from 10 a.m. to noon Jan. 21 — at the Edmonds Center for the Arts. It will feature Kaleidoscope Dance Company and Northside STEP. Featured performances at the evening event include:
- The Sound of the Northwest choral ensemble, directed by Juan Huey-Ray, highlighting a rich African American musical heritage in song.
- Storytelling from Dr. Gloria Burgess, an Edmonds resident whose life stories of poverty, racism and sexism have lifted spirits around the world.
- Dance performances from Barclay Shelton Dance Center and Price Arts Dance.
- Featured vocalist Josephine Howell, a Pacific Northwest gospel, R&B and jazz singer.
For tickets to the evening event, contact the ECA Box Office at 425-275-9595 or online at ec4arts.org.
You can also learn more in our earlier story.
When not actively scheming about ways to promote the arts in Edmonds, James Spangler can be found (highly caffeinated) behind the counter of his bookstore on 4th Avenue.