The East Carolina University Gospel Choir will feature in the Balm in Gilead gospel concert to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day tonight at 7:00 at the Main Campus Student Center’s Black Box Theater.
The event will also include the choirs of Koinonia Christian Center and Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church of Greenville who will come together to perform at the concert.
It will be the first concert of its kind at the Black Box Theater, with the idea of paying tribute to the spiritual side of the civil rights leader. The Ledonia Wright Cultural Center, as well as Student Affairs, has been heavily involved in the planning of the concert since November of last year.
King was best known as the chief spokesperson behind the nonviolent movement against segregation in the South during the Civil Rights movement until his assassination in 1968. In 1983, Ronald Reagan signed legislation to create a federal holiday in honor of King’s birthday to be observed on the third Monday in January.
Shaun Simon, associate director of the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center, commented on the concert and what it means to those involved.
“It’s an opportunity to herald this important figure in American history and especially the African American experience,” Simon said.
Simon also offered her thoughts on how the concert, and gospel music in general can be used to bring people together.
“We want a jovial atmosphere. Whether or not you’re Christians, music can be a great unifier and gospel can be very motivational,” Simon said.
The Cultural Center reached out to local choirs, as well as ECU’s own gospel choir to participate in the concert and honor King’s legacy as not only that of a spokesman for equality, but also as a Christian minister.
Jhanna Means, senior childhood development major and president of the ECU gospel choir, expressed her thoughts on the concert and what music means to her.
“We are excited to be apart of the concert, especially for such a great cause. I believe that music speaks to a part in all of us. Everyone can find some joy in it,” Means said.
Music such as African American spirituals and gospel played an important role in the civil rights movement. Songs such as “We Shall Overcome” provided hope and reflected people’s feelings towards the events happening around them.
For those performing, the concert is not only a celebration of King’s legacy. It is also a time to remember the struggles that he and others endured in the name of civil rights.
Imani Samuel, sophomore public health major and historian for the ECU gospel choir, offered his thoughts on the importance of the music of the Civil Rights era.
“Gospel music gave individuals hope and helped them not give up even when it seemed like there was nothing left for them to do,” Samuel said.
Samuel also expressed hope that the concert can have a positive impact on the local community.
“I do think it will have an impact, but it will have a bigger impact if people show up and are engaged,” Samuel said.
More details on the concert can be found here.