Arts community unites to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.

UofSC president Harris Pastides.

The federal holiday in honor of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is Monday, but the celebration of his life began early in Columbia.

The University of South Carolina and the Auntie Karen Foundation teamed up to present Freedom Rings: an evening of honoring Dr. King through the arts.

UofSC President Harris Pastides opened the evening with an acknowledgement of King’s accomplishments as well as a reminder that much remains to be done to honor his legacy and continue his mission.

“Only three individuals have a national or federal holiday for them: George Washington, who helped found our country, and Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., who laid down their lives for our country, our so-called ‘perfect union,'” Pastides said. “It’s not a perfect union. It’s only through struggle, and coming together through diversity and inclusion and justice and health for all and legal access for all that we can attempt to be a more perfect union.”

Pastides’ speech was followed by a group of people of many different races and ages delivering excerpts from King’s “Beloved Community” speech, with the speakers rising from seats in the crowd at Booker T. Washington Auditorium and moving to the stage.

Artist after artist followed, individuals and groups: UofSC gospel choir A Touch of Faith, gospel singer John Lakin, rapper Big Redd, spoken word artist The Watering Hole, local artists Jasmine Johnson and Just Us poet Micah Charles and vocalist Alex Thompson.

The event was a culmination of a weekend of celebrations of King’s life and legacy at UofSC, which also included a film screening, a commemorative breakfast, the recognition of UofSC Social Justice Award winners, and a day of volunteer service in the community.

A rally in King’s honor is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Monday at the South Carolina State House. U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders among the scheduled speakers.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Columbia, Education, Richland County