Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Remembering MLK

When reading this week's edition of Florida Weekly, the press release for an event called Read for Peace caught my eye. In honor of Black History Month, Laboratory Theater in Fort Myers was hosting a reading of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech. I wasn't sure what it would be like, but I felt that I could use a boost. So off I went.

Ella Naylor greeted people as they came in. "The work of the theater is to portray the human condition," she said, "And this IS the human condition," she said. ("This," of course, was a reference to the distress many are feeling as a result of the current political climate.)

Annette Trosbach, the Theater's Artistic Director, was distributing copies of the speech with highlighted lines to members of the diverse audience. Some people seemed eager to read. (Perhaps not surprisingly, I fell into this category.) Others were a bit reluctant. A little girl behind me said she didn't know how to read yet.

Organizers Annette Trosbach and Ella Naylor
Trosbach had put her director's hat on to determine how the reading could make the most impact. While many lines were read by individuals, some, like "Now is the time" and "I have a dream" were said jointly by many across the room. I also shared the line "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal." The ending, from the old Negro spiritual, of "Free at last! Thank God almighty, we're free at last!" was robustly voiced by everyone in attendance. 

As moving as it was, the original is still better. Click here to watch MLK's speech on YouTube.

After the recitation, Abdul'Haq Muhammed and Cesare Frustaci spoke. Mr. Muhammed is an African-American Muslim and Mr. Frustaci is a Holocaust survivor. Both men spoke eloquently, but it was Mr. Muhammed's exhortation of "Don't curse the darkness, light a candle" that most inspired me.

"It's easy," he explained, "For things to get ugly and to react to negativity. It's easy to be discouraged. But we must identify the place in our community where we can make a difference. Give back. Inspire young people. Create opportunities of hope." 

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