Dream of racial parity celebrated

Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of racial equality may not be a reality yet, but that doesn’t stop people from celebrating it.
More than 500 people gathered at the Ted Mann Concert Hall Sunday for the University’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Concert.
Lorraine Johnson-Coleman, a nationally renowned folklorist, headlined the program. Johnson-Coleman presented her original stories and poetry Sunday from her recent book “Just Plain Folks: Wisdom from the Front Porch,” published in October 1997.
“(I like) bringing a new perspective to Black History Month beyond the often celebrated and talked about (people),” said Johnson-Coleman. She added that she also likes to incorporate “the ordinary folks” into Black History Month, which is February.
Some concert-goers said they liked Johnson-Coleman because they could relate to her message through her storytelling.
“I loved it; she took me way back home,” said Diane Howard, a St. Paul insurance agent and Alabama native. “I could relate to (the performance). It was really good.”
Johnson-Coleman’s performance included two blues artists, “Little Pink” Anderson and Freddy Vanderford, who accompanied her storytelling as background music.
“(I liked) hearing the blues,” said Marcus Campbell, a Minneapolis attorney and recent University graduate. “The way that she had the blues as the undertones of her lyrics was something that I could identify with.”
Special Events Coordinator Mike Tracy said he invited Johnson-Coleman to speak at Sunday’s concert to get a new perspective on the holiday celebration, which is in its 17th year.
“We were killing one more bird with this stone because not only is she a great entertainer, but she’s a folklorist who’s saving black culture,” Tracy said.
One of the ways Johnson-Coleman said she is trying to preserve African-American culture is through her book, which includes original stories and essays about African-American folk culture.
“I work with rural African-American communities in a variety of ways,” said Johnson-Coleman. “This book is just an extension of the kinds of work that I want to do, which is really (to) help folks recognize that rural African-Americans have made incredible contributions.”
Johnson-Coleman said Martin Luther King Jr. was very inspirational in her life.
“I think Martin Luther King has influenced everybody to keep striving to actually make America what it’s supposed to be,” said Johnson-Coleman. “That stuff they wrote in the Constitution, we’re all waiting for it to come true.”