On Thursday, Jan. 30, Salt Lake Community College faculty, students and residents of the Salt Lake area gathered together at SLCC’s South City Campus for an event celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.
The event featured the talents of several local and out-of-state musicians, intermediated by poignant remarks from notable persons culminating into an evening of inspiration.
“This celebration, that has been organized and then set to music, is a great place for us all to come together and do our part to pursue the goals [that Martin Luther King, Jr. has] set for us,” says Reverend Dr. France Davis of the Utah Board of Regents.
Davis, along with local music group The G Brown Jazz Ensemble, and vocalists Tammy Hanson and Glory Johnson-Stanton, were also featured.
“I actually met [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.],” says Davis. “I marched with him on the march [from Selma to] Montgomery and the march on Washington when he delivered his most famous speech. But I want to suggest to you that [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] had a lot of other things to say, and we would do well, I believe, to remember some of those other things.”
Davis referred to the acceptance speech Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10, 1964, in which he expressed his beliefs about providing food to adequately meet the needs of everybody, education and culture for every mind and “dignity and equality with freedom for every spirit.”
Davis said that the three beliefs Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of have yet to be fully achieved. He noted that there are many still, even in our community, who do not have three meals a day, and that there are thousands of children in Utah that go to bed without adequate food.
Davis also noted that there are those who still don’t have educational and cultural opportunity.
“That’s what SLCC is about,” says Davis. “SLCC is the largest college in the state of Utah, serving more students than any other institution in our state.”
Davis discussed the need for assurance that all people attain dignity, equality and freedom.
“I pursue [dignity, equality and freedom] for everybody’s spirit,” says Davis. “I believe that everybody needs to have their spirit motivated and driven in such a way that we can be able to achieve the goals that [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has] set for us.”
SLCC MLK Celebration Committee member Marian Howe-Taylor read aloud some words from the opening segment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
“When you look at America now, so much of what [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] said still rings true,” says Howe-Taylor. “We have a lot of work to do, and we can’t get there without looking at the past, really grappling with it, so that we can move forward as a united people.”
Education advocate and award-winning pianist Dr. Dennis Slaughter and critically acclaimed award-winning author and speaker Sharon Ewell Foster were also featured at this event.
Foster provided a few motivational remarks. She told the story of Nat Turner, a Virginian slave who led a rebellion significant to the Civil Rights Movement in 1831.
“This is a hero story not just for African-Americans, but it’s a hero story for all Americans,” says Foster. “What it says to me is that if [Nat Turner] can do something with nothing, then the possibilities for us, with all that we have, are just astronomical.”
Vocalist Glory Johnson-Stanton joined Slaughter and the G Brown Jazz Ensemble for a performance of Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday.”
“We didn’t want to forget Nelson Mandela in all of this because [he was part of a] significant [Civil Rights] movement going on over in South Africa,” says Slaughter. “This was a song of protest that Masekela sang in 1990 when Mandela was [released from prison].”
“Bring Back Nelson Mandela,” a song written by South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, was also performed.
Slaughter led the audience in a sing-along to the tune “This Little Light of Mine,” inviting several individuals, including interim SLCC president Deneece Huftalin and Davis, to join the stage in song.
“It is our desire that [people] understand, that a great man graced this world,” said SLCC MLK Celebration Committee member Jack Hesleph.