Monday, January 21, 2008

You can't stop the children of the revolution

Although Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed more than 35 years ago, Julius Edwards does not believe he is truly dead.

"We have a whole bunch of Martin Luther King juniors in this room today," Edwards said, the master of ceremonies and assistant director of Hillbrook Juvenile Detention Center.

Members of the Syracuse community sat scattered among the chair-filled gym of Dr. King Elementary School to observe performances and an address made by political activist Barbara Ransby, all of which commemorated the life and legacy of King.

"If we really want to honor King, we have to honor the legacy of continuing the activism that he gave his life in,” said Ransby, also an assistant professor of African-American studies and history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “We have to honor King by continuing to challenge and hold up issues of justice in our own time."

Nazjahrik Mosley, 8, recognizes the change King brought to society.

“Back in the old days, laws weren't right so he changed them,” Mosley said. "Whites can go to the same school. He got freedom."

Mosley said he thinks that King means family too. He attended the event with his god-brothers and cousins, who also attend elementary schools in the area.

Family was a theme mentioned, as well as seen, through out the celebration.

Edwards thinks that family plays a vital role in making a difference.

"We hope to encourage young people to follow their dreams,” he said.

Gregory White II, sophomore at Nottingham High School, is already following his dreams, playing music with the Signature Syracuse Jazz Ensemble and aspiring to attend a music college. White, an alto saxophonist that has been playing since fourth grade, performed Oscar Peterson’s “Night Train” and Nat King Cole’s “Route 66” with four other student musicians at the celebration.

"I know playing at this was for a good cause and for the community,” White said. “I always like to play so I'm always going to play anyways."

White has played this annual event in the past and said he enjoys playing this show because he always learns something.

“Since we've been coming here for about four years now, I like the speakers because they really wake me up,” he said. "(Ransby) was good, but I think some people in the past hit it harder."

White’s mother Rachielle White came to support her son and hopes he takes away something from today’s event.

"People died and fought really hard for us to have freedoms and we have to remember that,” she said “Education is the key and you know there was a time where you got killed as a black person if you learned how to read or if they found out you knew how to read.”

In addition to the jazz band, the Dr. King Elementary School Drill Team, five students from the Levy Middle School Choir and a soloist from Tucker Missionary Baptist Church Choir were showcased during the two-hour show.

Ms. White said she enjoyed all of the show and plans to also attend Ransby’s keynote speech addressing "King's Challenge: Can We Live Peacefully in a Violent World?" that will be given at 6:30 p.m. at the Carrier Dome.

Ransby reminded the audience that the best way to remember King and those people who fought alongside him is to become an activist.

"Do so with courage and determination in our own abilities,” the historian and award-winning author said. “To do so with our imaginations intact, and to do so demanding truth in a context in which it is becoming a rare commodity."

White said he has started to look at King’s message differently after hearing Ransby’s delivery, and he thinks he can make a difference by embracing his passion.

"Music can make change, music can do a lot,” he said. “I don't know how, but I know that it stands somewhere."

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