Churches keep Dr. King’s message alive

DanVo’nique Reed has been singing with the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Choir since childhood.

“I joined the choir maybe at 6 or 7,” said the Everett woman, now 33. “I’ve been part of the Martin Luther King Celebration for probably 20 years, and I have sung in the choir most of that time. I took a few years off, getting married and having children.”

The choir made its debut in 1986 at Everett’s first Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. It was held at First Baptist Church that first year. In the years since, other churches and venues have opened their doors to the annual celebration.

The past few years, it has been at Everett’s Spirit of Grace United Methodist Church, formerly named First United Methodist Church.

This year’s event featuring the Celebration Choir is scheduled for 3 p.m. Jan. 15 at Spirit of Grace United Methodist Church. For the first time in many years, Everett’s Frederick Bletson is not the event’s chairman.

“I’m his daughter,” Reed said. “He stepped down last year, and I’ve taken on that role. As chairman, he has passed the baton,” she said.

Reed is co-chairwoman of the event, along with Sandra Williams. Paul Stoot Jr., of Greater Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, will serve as music director for the second year.

“He’s only 21, so there’s a different style. We were kind of nervous about the transition, but I would say last year we had one of our biggest turnouts,” Reed said. “There’s something for the older crowd and something for the youth. We’re really excited.”

The program includes both traditional music and contemporary songs, Reed said. Toyia Taylor, a motivational speaker from Seattle, is also part of the program. “She’s very involved in the community, primarily working with at-risk youth,” Reed said.

Reed described the annual event as “a faith-based, community-based celebration for all different faiths and cultural and ethnic backgrounds.”

“Dr. King was a reverend. He loved Gospel music. Most of the songs are Gospel-based,” she said.

On Whidbey Island, another church will hold a community Martin Luther King Jr. event, “Blessed Be the Peace Makers.” That service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 16 at St. Augustine’s-in-the-Woods Episcopal Church in Freeland.

Ora Houston, a leader in the Union of Black Episcopalians from Texas, will speak at the Whidbey celebration. An interactive reading of Civil Rights Movement events, a reading of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and the singing of “We Shall Overcome” will be part of the St. Augustine program.

For the Everett event, the Celebration Choir with more than 30 members has been practicing weekly, Reed said. Among selections are “What the World Needs Now,” “I Shall Praise,” “Peace” and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.”

Reed said the messages of equality and justice are as powerful today as ever.

“Life goes on and time passes, but we can’t become complacent. We need to continue to educate people,” she said. “We continue to sing, to march and to proclaim the Gospel and the legacy of what Dr. King stood for.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Churches honor King legacy

A Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, with a performance by the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Choir, is scheduled for 3 p.m. Jan. 15 at Everett’s Spirit of Grace United Methodist Church, 3530 Colby Ave. Toyia Taylor will speak at the event supported by the Snohomish County Black Heritage Committee.

A Whidbey Island community Martin Luther King Jr. “Blessed Be the Peace Makers” event will be held at 1 p.m. Jan. 16 at St. Augustine’s-in-the-Woods Episcopal Church, 5217 Honeymoon Bay Road, Freeland. Free refreshments will be served an hour before the event in the parish hall. Speaking will be Ora Houston, a leader in the Union of Black Episcopalians. There will be a free will offering for Helping Hand; food donations also accepted.

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