On MLK Day: First Sheer Artistry, Then the Question of a Certain ‘Promissory Note’



How was your Martin Luther King Day? It feels like about a month ago – B.S. (before the snow) – but, of course, it was just this past Monday. Mine was, come to think of it, more than interesting, maybe even extraordinary. Yet it wasn’t anything unique or terribly different from what lots of others did, taking advantage of some of the offerings across the region that we had to choose from to celebrate King and his legacy. One caveat, though: you do have to have the time or have the ability to take off and get to them to take full advantage. And so I did.

But this isn’t where I talk about how I lent a hand participating in a valued community project, of which there were many. Instead I went to a concert in the afternoon and a panel discussion in the evening (you wouldn’t call it hard labor). And while they were both very special events, even riveting in their own ways, one was absolutely uplifting and the other more like a hard slap in the face that you knew was coming. (Thanks, I needed that.)


The concert at Girard College featuring the Philadelphia Orchestra along with the School District of Philadelphia All City Choir was delightful and inspiring, truly superb. Opening with Copland’sFanfare for the Common Man, it included a wonderful, almost startling a capella version of “Go Down Moses” by the choir. Then there was the unforgettable reading of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech by master storyteller/narrator Charlotte Blake Alston set to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. The entire concert was a great gift, which it was also in the literal sense, it being free. What a great way to spend an afternoon – bathed in music in the majestic chapel of Girard College while paying tribute to the lion of the civil rights movement who still speaks searingly to us today.

In the evening I attended a panel discussion sponsored by the Cheltenham Area Branch of the NAACP and the Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) at Congregation Keneseth Israel (KI) in Elkins Park. Understandably, the emotional pitch of this event was quite different. The focus was what author and scholar Michelle Alexander called in the title of her book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” While Alexander has done much to explicate the ways the criminal justice system victimizes people of color in this country, particularly young people, the smart and savvy panel expressed views molded by their own perspectives deeply rooted in their personal and professional lives.

Read The Rest Of The Story At The Citizens' Call


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