Martin Luther King Jr. celebrated at Centennial Hall event
Artifact Dance Project performs "The March" for expecting crowds this Sunday during the Beyond Tucson MLK event.
On Sunday afternoon, the University of Arizona brought the Tucson community together for the second annual celebration of "Beyond Tucson: A Time to Break Silence in Centennial Hall." It observed the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. through a passionate concert of music, contemporary dances and progressive poetry.
The free, two-hour program presented beautiful collaborative artwork from various participating organizations, such as the Artifact Dance Project, Words on the Avenue, UA Dance, UA Symphony Choir, the College of Fine Arts Theatre Studies and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
The event was sponsored by the College of Fine Arts, College of Humanities, College of Humanities Africana Studies, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Office of Diversity and Inclusive Excellence, UA Presents and Dr. Mary Jo Ghory.
The event was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous speech on April 4, 1967. The speech, which Dr. King made to speak out against the Vietnam War and social injustices, encouraged everyone to find their own voice and speak their own truths.
The performances, through the language of art, revived Dr. King’s ideals — ideals that once changed the nation — back into today’s conversation.
UA Presents Director of Programming Candace L. Feldman and School of Theatre Professor Kevin James Byrne co-curated the event for the second year in a row.
Byrne believed the event was more successfully curated this year, and that it had a more unified theme of ‘a time to break the silence of the night.’ He also directed a monologue.
“It was nice to experience the way that the different artists and media interpreted that idea, or that call to action by Dr. King," Byrne said. "It was a wonderful conversation happening between all of the pieces, and of course how the audience responded was wonderful and different.”
Byrne explained the theme was chosen last year during the 50th anniversary of the speech's delivery, and seeing the importance of commemorating and reflecting upon it. In his personal read-through of the speech, Byrne said he could see how much it “still has contemporary resonance.”
In his own perspective of what “breaking the silence” means, Byrne said it is more than just speaking up. “It (also) means a sense of togetherness. It means working together, it means organizing, it means meeting face-to-face, door-to-door, or marching, or making signs...and sharing something.”
Byrne hopes the event goes forward as an annual celebration at Centennial Hall, and that it continues to grow to the point that even more people will know about it and join in.
Other organizations brought awareness to current social issues with displays outside of the hall, including the Tucson Indian Center, Southern Arizona YWCA, Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse, Tucson Second Chance Community Bail Fund, and the Iskashitaa Refugee Network.
The event was well-received, with an excellent show of diverse university talents. Many of the performers felt empowered to speak freely on issues such as white supremacy.
Even the audience was invited to join in the last song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by Harlem Resistance singer and composer J. Rosamond Johnson.
Thus, Beyond Tucson: A Time to Break Silence not only celebrated Martin Luther King Jr., but celebrated all voices.
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