By Ted Barrow

January 20th, Dr Martin Luther King’s birthday, is celebrated across the USA in honour of his outstanding contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. Claudine Eccleston (featured as a ‘Community Ledge’ in Issue 133) has been organising celebrations to mark this occasion since she first came across it 40 years ago in San Francisco. 

Claudine Eccleston

This year’s celebrations were held at the Hastings and Rother Refugee Buddy Project and opened with Surrinder Chera sharing some of his favourite extracts from Martin Luther King’s speeches.

Anna-Maria Nabirye gave a very commanding reading of Sorry, a monologue from For Coloured Girls Who Have Considered Suicide by Ntozake Shange. Sabina Arthur shared Continue by Maya Angelou, and Councillor Maya Evans explained how Dr King’s dedication to non-violent protest has inspired her and other activists to adopt peaceful processes.

{{ Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that ||

Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

Sister Suzie and Matt Jackson offered up a powerful and moving set including songs by Lil Johnson and Memphis Minnie, as well as some gospel and traditional songs, complete with detailed explanations of the origins of the songs and their historical relevance.

The Crowd

Lily Kim with Aisha and Peter Wilson offered emotionally engaging contemporary renditions of John and Yoko’s Imagine, The Beatles’ Let It Be and  I wish I knew by Nina Simone, finishing with an acapella version of the civil rights anthem We Shall Overcome to which the audience enthusiastically contributed. The event was rounded off with the Gospel Community Choir delivering an uplifting selection of soul and gospel songs plus a raffle which included three specially made Martin Luther King portrait mirrors made by WOW on Queens Road. The event raised
over £350 for the Buddy Project. 

Over the years Dr King’s birthday has become an important part of our culture and a reminder of our dedication to freedom and social justice, to those to whom we owe so much and to those who are still denied basic human rights. 

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