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Published: Saturday, 1/24/2004

MLK observation was a focus on Toledo's talent

BY ROSE RUSSELL

The city's MLK Unity Celebration on Monday was impressive. Probably foremost was the challenge offered by University of Toledo President Dr. Daniel Johnson.

"Our goal is not unity for unity's sake," he told the audience of 3,200 at UT's Savage Hall, the site of the event.

"The goal of unity improves our quality of life for all of us, our children and grandchildren. Divided, things move slowly, but with unity, we win. As we finish the celebration today and wake up on Tuesday morning, we know we have to press on," he said.

So who got up on Tuesday morning determined to make this a better place to live? Or did we all return to work and business as usual?

I'll let you ponder that thought. Meanwhile, Dr. Johnson's statement that "we know we have to press on" captures the spirit of the civil rights movement that thrust into the limelight Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His nonviolent policy helped lay the foundation for gaining access to many of the social benefits that minority and poor people enjoy today.

Videotaped excerpts of some of Dr. King's speeches reminded the audience about how great an orator he was. Hearing his voice again and viewing his image evoked more respect for Dr. King, who would have been 75 on Jan. 15 had he lived.

Dr. Johnson's challenge to "press on" is reminiscent of the determination that springs into action in the face of adversity and that never rests when matters run smoothly. The people who attended the annual observance know this and certainly are grateful that we live in a nation where differences are noted and in many cases celebrated, as did the various religious, political, business, and community figures representing a mix of racial and ethnic groups at Monday's program.

I wasn't alone in my delight about the young people in attendance. You had to have been brain-dead not to bob your head or pat your feet to the rhythmic drumbeats belted out by the Jim Jackson Drum Line. Excellent performance.

The abundance of talented Toledo youth was also evident in the performances by choirs from Rogers High School and Central Catholic High School. By the way, who was that handsome young man who sang a solo with the Rogers' choir? His melodious voice made some of the young women daydream and nearly swoon, I could tell.

But after Toledo's most famous young male soloist, Darius Coleman, again stirred the audience as he sang solo with the Toledo Interfaith Choir in the background, Mayor Jack Ford made a humorous gesture to hold back Dr. Johnson. Last year after Darius, now 12, sang, the UT president offered him a scholarship to the university.

By the way, commendations are due the diverse Interfaith Choir. That choir can blow, you know what I mean? Thank you, choir director Derrick Roberts and choir members for all of the hard work you do to bless Toledo with your wonderful music. And thank you too, Regina Patrick, who always is beautifully dressed in white when she does sign language for the hearing impaired as the choir sings.

As for the young talent in Toledo, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur was right in her assessment about the city's youth.

"I think it's time for a youth music festival. We just got a taste of the future here, and I like what I see," she said.

Who will pick up on her idea?

I have to say, though, that I wasn't sure who the Toledo Democrat was talking about when she said "Martin." Then, when she said, "Martin and his wife, Coretta," I knew she meant Dr. and Mrs. King.

I don't believe I ever heard Dr. King referred to that way publicly or by an elected official.

Toledo's black community adores Ms. Kaptur, and I'm certain she meant no harm. But my ears about fell off when she called the late minister, civil rights activist, and Nobel laureate who gave his life so that others could be improved, "Martin." The references were disrespectful. Hopefully none of the youth in the audience will follow that example.

And yes, I know. I occasionally refer to the President as George. He will still occasionally be George because one thing is for sure, George Bush is no Martin Luther King, Jr.



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