On Monday, they'll be celebrating unity

Published: Sunday, January 18, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 17, 2004 at 11:54 p.m.

The 10th annual Celebration of Unity on Monday night may seem like dessert - rich and satisfying - topping off a weekend honoring Martin Luther King Jr.



What: The 10th Annual Celebration of Unity; music, dance and the spoken word in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., sponsored by the World Harmony Project

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: Hippodrome State Theatre, 25 SE 2nd Place

Admission: Free

Featuring: Readings by Marilyn Thomas-Houston, spirit dance by Olapetun Orisatolu, praise dance by Niyi Osoba, songs by Ayashati Obesayo and by the Church of the Living God in Christ, and a slide show by Vijali Hamilton, with Cathy DeWitt. Performances by Hoggetowne Middle School students, Jordan Glen School, One Room Schoolhouse and Ifalola Folkloric Troupe.

Founded by Shanti Vani, the Celebration of Unity brings together people of all races. Held again at the Hippodrome State Theatre, the event will showcase singing, dancing and readings to honor King.

"Every year, it seems to build momentum," said Vani, who marched on Washington, D.C., with the Poor People's Campaign as a teenager in 1969. "Just the excitement, keeping the energy and spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King alive, is very satisfying."

In spite of the progress, Shanti contends our nation still suffers deep divisions between people of different colors and classes.

"This event is designed to make new friends and create a stronger, more connected community," she said, noting people from across the community are encouraged to attend.

On Monday night, the adult choir from the Church of Living God in Christ will fill the Hippodrome with the freedom songs that kept the civil rights movement alive in the face of brutality and injustice, and Ayashati Obesayo's voice will echo with "songs of spirit."

You'll see "spirit dance" and "praise dance" performed by Olapetun Orisatolu of Ifalola! Folkloric Troupe and the Redeeming Faith Dancers, respectively. Niyi Osoba of Redeeming Faith and Anointing Ministries choreographed the praise dance. Children, some as young as 5 and 6, from Ifalola!, Jordan Glen School, One Room Schoolhouse and Hoggetowne Middle School also will dance.

Global peace activist and artist Vijali Hamilton will give a short slide show, "Journey of World Friendship," accompanied by musician Cathy DeWitt. Hamilton has traveled around the world creating environmental sculpture amidst indigenous people.

Marilyn Thomas-Houston, interim director of the University of Florida African American studies program, said she will share works celebrating the full range of King's vision and, she added, "a bit of trivia about Martin Luther King, some things that people don't necessarily know. I expect to also lead the audience in singing the Negro National Anthem."

The Celebration is sponsored by the World Harmony Project, a nonprofit cultural and educational organization in Gainesville.

Julie Garrett can be contacted at (352) 374-5049 of garretj@gvillesun.com.

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