AfriGeneas States Research Forum
[AL] Martin Luther King Jr Celebration
Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations begin Saturday
By Tommy Stevenson
TUSCALOOSA | The 16th annual “Realizing the Dream" concert will begin celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on Saturday. On Monday, the 21st annual “Unity Day," sponsored by the Tuscaloosa chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, will be held.
Jan. 15 is King’s actual birthday, while Jan. 17 is the federal holiday in the late civil-rights leader’s honor declared by Congress in 1983 and first observed in 1986.
The American Spiritual Ensemble, founded and directed by University of Alabama alumnus Everett McCorvey, will highlight the Realizing the Dream concert at 7:30 p.m. in the UA Moody Music Concert Hall.
The Hallelujah Singers, who preserve and celebrate the Gullah culture of the South Carolina Sea Islands, will perform at a Unity Day rally at 6 p.m. Monday at First African Baptist Church, 2621 Stillman Blvd.
The brainchild of UA music professor Scott Bridges, the Realizing the Dream concert is sponsored by UA, Stillman College and Shelton State Community College. It has featured such performers as Al Green, Ossie Davis, Sidney Poitier, Roberta Flack and Harry Belafonte.
McCorvey, Alumni Association/sEndowed Professor of Voice and director of opera at the University of Kentucky, founded the America Spiritual/sEnsemble in 1995. The 16-member ensemble performs spirituals and other compositions of African-American composers.
The group, which has recorded three CDs, has presented more than 100 concerts, conducted two tours of the United States and has performed throughout Europe.
McCorvey, a Montgomery native, earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in music at UA and joined the UK faculty in 1991. A tenor, he has performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Kennedy Center, the Aspen Music Festival and the Blossom Music Festival.
Also participating in the concert will be students from Stillman, Shelton, UA and Tuscaloosa City Schools.
Tickets for the concert are $15 and are on sale at the Moody Music Concert Hall. Call 348-7111.
Unity Day will begin with a breakfast at 7 a.m. at Beulah Family Life Center, 3100 25th St., and will feature the Rev. W.J. Long, the church’s pastor, as the keynote speaker.
A Unity March will begin at noon at Martin Luther King Elementary School, 2430 Martin Luther King Blvd., and will proceed to the Tuscaloosa City Hall on University Boulevard.
The Hallelujah Singers were organized by featured singer Marlena Smalls in 1990 to preserve the melodies and storytelling tradition unique to the Gullahs of the Sea Islands
The Gullah language, a Creole blend of Elizabethan English and African languages, was born of necessity on Africa’s slave coast, and developed in the slave communities of the isolated plantations of the coastal South.
Even after the Sea Islands were freed in 1861, the Gullah speech flourished because access to the islands was by water only until the 1950s.
Through their performances, interwoven with music and narration, The Hallelujah Singers present a miniature dramatization of some of the personages, rituals and ceremonial dimensions that played an important part in shaping Gullah culture.
Moviegoers may be familiar with the group from their appearance in Forrest Gump, where Smalls played Bubba’s mama.
Reach Tommy Stevenson at email@example.com.