Beloved Community Symposium to Host Free Community Concert in Observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day


MACON – Mercer University's Building the Beloved Community Symposium will host a free community concert, including music, dance and a dramatic reading, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The event will take place Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. at The Grand Opera House in Macon.

“This performance will be a unique program that will pay tribute to Dr. King's legacy in an unforgettable way,” said Dr. John Dunaway, professor emeritus of French and interdisciplinary studies at Mercer. “Poetry, jazz and choral music, and African dance combine to cap off the climax of Martin Luther King Day in the historic Macon Grand Opera House.”

Michael Scott, director of the Central High School band, will give a dramatic reading of “Elegy for Martin Luther King,” a poem by Senegalese author Leopold Sedar Senghor, accompanied by an original jazz composition by Dr. Christopher Schmitz, professor of music theory at Mercer.

Dr. Schmitz's work will be performed by the Mercer Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Monty Cole, associate professor of clarinet and saxophone and director of jazz studies at Mercer.

The concert will also include dance performances by the Hayiya Dance Theatre directed by Pilar Wilder Lowden and commentary by Dr. Dunaway and Dr. Chester Fontenot, Baptist Professor of English and director of Africana studies at Mercer.

Honorary Consul to Senegal Julius Coles will provide a word of welcome, and the French Consul General will be represented by a six-person delegation. Coles, who had a distinguished career serving across the world as a diplomat, will also give a lecture on Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. in Mercer's Stetson Hall Room 251 on the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta in the 1960s, during which he was a student at Morehouse College.

The event will conclude with a performance by the Otis Redding Foundation Dream Choir directed by Renee Bumpus.

Dr. Dunaway founded the Building the Beloved Community Symposium in 2005 as a way to help the church demonstrate unity through collaboration across denominational and racial boundaries based on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s concept of the “beloved community.”

This year's 14th annual symposium, scheduled for Feb. 6-7 on Mercer's Macon campus, will feature the Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, professor of church growth and evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, as keynote speaker.

A paired clergy network that grew out of the symposium works to foster follow-up activities between black and white churches, through such activities as sister-church relationships, pulpit exchanges, partnerships in community development and service, and the formation of action groups for specific issues.

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