A group of energetic children joined Faye Dant and Marsha Mayfield on stage for the closing song at the Jan. 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at Hannibal-LaGrange University.
The youngsters did an acrobatic dance while the crowd at the Roland Fine Arts Center sang Stevie Wonder’s version of “Happy Birthday” to King.
Faye and Joel Dant had explained to the audience that this event was planned as a happy birthday celebration, and the children were showing they agreed.
Earlier there were more somber moments, such as when HLGU student Sean Hellems delivered King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Featured speaker W.T. Johnson, a local educator and actor, presented portions of a book, “Martin’s Big Words,” which was inspiring for people of all ages.
“Martin said together, when others said separate,” Johnson reported, and “Martin said peace when others said war.”
Johnson outlined the civil rights movement, beginning with Rosa Parks inspiring the bus strike that lasted 381 days. … Johnson noted that King had marched for 10 years before he was killed, and it took 10 years of protests for lawmakers to end segregation.
Johnson had the audience recite “Everyone can be great” and said King left words to live by: “Love for yourself and love for one another.”
HLGU President Dr. Anthony Allen, introduced by HLGU Homecoming Queen Massaly Mashburn, reported 46 years had passed since King’s assassination, and it was “fitting to champion the life and movement” of King and civil rights. … “We are all one people under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
Music played an important part of the celebration, including Mayfield leading “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and Tina Haley singing “I Believe I Can Fly.”
The Pirate Pride Singers, fourth and fifth graders at Eugene Field Elementary School, were led by their music, teacher, Teresa Paszkiet, as they sang “Safe and Sound,” “Hall of Fame” and “Be Pro-active.”
Praise Dancers Paula Stevenson, Re’Nayjah Burton and Mariah Mayfield, from Second Christian Church in New London, performed a dance, and Patrick Hedges sang “Make Them Hear You.”
Earlier, their pastor, the Rev. Faye Vaughn, led in prayer after saying she was glad to see so many children present, because they will be the leaders of the future.
As the crowd shared birthday cake after the program, Faye Dant explained she was pleased with the number of people attending, adding “the college did a lot for us.”