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Ashe remembers life, work of King

Originally published: Jan. 23, 2013
Last modified: Jan. 23, 2013

Jesse Campbell

As the nation celebrated the inauguration of President Barack Obama, communities across the country also paused to reflect on the monumental civil rights movement of nonviolent protestor Martin Luther King, Jr. 

At the Ashe County Arts Council in West Jefferson Monday evening, both whites and African-Americans joined hand-in-hand as they sung hymns of freedom and unity while recounting the strides made by King’s efforts to rid the nation of all prejudices. 

The program, which was entitled “Holdfast to the Dream,” has become a longstanding mainstay at the art’s council. 

“This program focuses on the words and legacy of King along with his nonviolent approach,” said Jane Lonon, executive director of the art’s council. 

The celebration began with a fitting singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by the attending choir and audience alike. 

The art’s center’s performing room soon began to fill with boisterous voices and hand clapping, as the audience began to gently sway back and forth while still cupping one another’s hands in an apparent show of unity. 

A stirring reading performed by narrator Sharon Kasel and Zamian Gwyn, who played the voice of King, followed the singing.  

The presentation of the two readers featured highlights from King’s life and his efforts as a civil rights activist. 

King was born during the height of the Great Depression. King later attended college, earned his pastorate, and soon found King thrust into the fledgling Civil Rights movement, including his help in organizing a response to the Rosa Parks’ crisis. 

A turning point in the Civil Rights’ movement came with the protest of Birmingham, AL in 1963, Kasel Read. 

King was jailed 100 years to the day of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. 

While incarcerated, King responded to an article in the local newspaper that criticized King’s efforts. 

This statement, known as “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” is considered one of the most important documents on nonviolent protest. 

King was later award the Nobel Peace Prize and became Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. 

In between segments of the reading, the presentation paused as the audience once again rejoined the choir in song. 

The program concluded with a special presentation of poet Glenis Redmond, who previously performed at the 2007 edition. 

Redmond read several readings pertaining to King’s legacy and several cultural themed pieces on being an African American. 

Redmond’s poems also focused on the importance of dreams and holding onto them, which became an intricate part of the program’s theme. 

She also recalled a visit to the eastern part of the state where she visited an old southern plantation where she believed her great-grandfather spoke to her and inspired her to write a poem. 

Redmond also referred to one of King’s most famous quotes, “I will stick with love because hate is too much of a burden to bear.”

“I believe love is our most worthy challenge,” said Redmond. 

Redmond’s words and poems seemed to be on cue with the feelings of the audience, who often could be heard finishing her sentences and nodding their heads in approval while shouting “amen.”

For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.