Songs raise spirit of MLK event

Second-graders Brittany Crawford, 7, and LaHazel Williams, 7, sit together with their peers from the Williams Elementary Singers in the pews of the Mt. Moriah Baptist Church Tuesday before the start of the Martin Luther King kick-off week.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 14, 2003 at 11:28 p.m.

Voices rang out in joyful celebration Tuesday night at the Martin Luther King Jr. Week kickoff at Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Gainesville.


FYI: King Week 2003 events in the area

Here are some highlights of the week's events. For more information, call the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida at 376-2442.

  • WHAT: "Mr. Right Now," a gospel play.
    WHEN: Thursday-Sunday, 8 p.m.
    WHERE: MLK Multi-Purpose Center.
  • WHAT: MLK Annual Youth Summit.
    WHEN: Saturday, 8:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
    WHERE: MLK Multi-Purpose Center.
  • WHAT: 18th annual MLK Hall of Fame Banquet, featuring U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek.
    WHEN: Sunday, 6 p.m.
    WHERE: Sheraton Hotel.
  • WHAT: National Holiday Kickoff Program.
    WHEN: Monday 1/20, 11 a.m.
    WHERE: Gainesville Community Plaza.
  • WHAT: MLK Commission of Florida Annual Commemorative March.
    WHEN: Monday 1/20, noon.
    WHERE: MLK Memorial Gardens (downtown).
  • WHAT: National Holiday Program and Gospel Extravaganza.
    WHEN: Monday 1/20, 1-5 p.m.
    WHERE: MLK Multi-Purpose Center.
  • WHAT: "Celebration of Unity," King Week finale.
    WHEN: Monday 1/20, 7-10 p.m.
    WHERE: Hippodrome State Theatre.

  • The event started off with Francis Shanks singing the "Star Spangled Banner." Shanks' powerful voice rang across the church, and the room broke into thunderous applause when she was done.

    Then the audience of hundreds sang "Lift Every Voice and Sing," with many young and old knowing the words by heart.

    The Duval Elementary School choir sang a gospel-style "Battle Hymn of the Republic." The children, dressed in green and white shirts, raised their arms in the air and swayed as they sang. The audience clapped along and then gave the children a standing ovation.

    Several local political figures then spoke about what King Week means to them.

    Bonnie Burgess, mayor of Alachua, said the most important part of the celebration is keeping hope alive.

    "In 2003, we want this to be a stellar year and make sure we have. . . peace to each of you," Burgess said.

    Roberta Lopez, a member of the Archer City Commission, told the audience she will never forget seeing King in Washington, D.C., in 1963.

    "Those times are forever etched in my mind, and we will never forget his face," Lopez said. "We must continue the struggle."

    Gainesville Mayor Tom Bussing said, "We will not stop until we have peace for all; we will not stop until we have freedom for all!"

    And with this year's King week theme "Bridging the Next Generation," children were an important part of the celebration.

    Breanna Calhoun, 10, attended the event with her cousins, Markesha Pinkney, 10, and Tiffany Hill, 14.

    "I came to learn more about Martin Luther King and support him," Breanna said. "Because I know he did a lot for the blacks and whites."

    Kathy Ciotola can be reached at 338-3109 or

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