Praise, dance and song

by Mickie Barg

An enthusiastic audience of more than 400 gathered to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Sunday afternoon at the Ted Mann Concert Hall.
The multicultural concert featured speeches, music and dance in colorful, traditional costumes celebrating race, ethnicity and culture.
The 18th annual concert, sponsored by the Office of Multicultural and Academic Affairs and the Minnesota Dance Alliance, was the culmination of a week of free classes, workshops and public discussion exploring King’s work and the current state of his vision of racial parity and human tolerance.
Chuck Davis, founder and artistic director of the Durham, N.C.-based African American Dance Ensemble, served as the event’s host.
In addition to reading excerpts of King’s words and introducing the performers, he established a sense of community in the audience by allotting time for audience members to meet and greet each other. “This isn’t a program; it’s a sharing,” Davis said.
A spirited drum and dance processional began the celebration. The Reginald Buckner Memorial Ensemble played a jazz composition, which was followed by the Ragamal Music and Dance Theater’s performance of a south Indian dance in traditional costumes.
The Chinese American Association of Minnesota’s Chinese Dance Theater performed a dance choreographed by Shen Pei, followed by the “Auspicious Golden Lion Dance.” The Southwest High School Dance Company performed a choral and dance piece titled “Tribute to Rosa Parks,” which recounted Parks’ contribution to the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955.
The Dancers and Drummers of Langa performed a traditional African dance to the beat of drums, followed by an energetic performance of break dancing and acrobatics by 10,000 Dances and Battlecats.
Vikki Howard brought her 4-year-old daughter to the event. “This event brings people together to remember Dr. King,” she said. “It also makes us look introspectively at where everyone is at today — especially in Minneapolis. It celebrates his life and his dream,” she said.
Howard said her daughter wanted to know when it was her turn to dance because she was accustomed to dancing at community pow-wows.
In addition to the performances, the recipients of the Josie R. Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award winners were announced. Each year the award honors one University faculty member and one student based on commitment to human rights, social justice and community service.
The award was given to David V. Taylor, dean of the General College and to Jacquelyn J. Geier, a graduate student in the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.
Davis concluded the concert with a poem for a better world:
“Raise your hands in peace, stomp out oppression and make it cease.”