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'You can't stop the music'

Park Academy students learn musical lesson about Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Broadway singer Charles Holt (left) and high-profile voiceover artist and actor Gerald C. Rivers offer up a message of hope in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.Park Academy Executive Director Paula Kinney stood before a crowd of mostly students Tuesday and peppered them with questions, including this one: “Can anyone tell me what racial integration is?”

Sixth-grader Milo Brebner raised his hand.

“It’s when two different races intermix in a society,” he said.

The question-and-answer session served as an introduction to a special assembly in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the nonprofit school for students with dyslexia and other language learning challenges. King was an anti-war protester, a reverend and an inspirational leader who was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 before being assassinated four years later.

After Kinney’s questions were answered, Broadway singer Charles Holt and high-profile voiceover artist and actor Gerald C. Rivers, also known as “The Voice of Dr. King,” then performed their two-man “Martin and Me” presentation.

“It’s not a show,” Rivers said. “It’s not a play. It’s an experience.”Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Park Academy students (from left) Grace Foresta, Amy Spence and Myers Granger drink in a performance during the 'Martin & Me' presentation at their school.

Holt raised his smooth, sonorous voice for passionate spirituals such as “I Shall Not Be Moved,” “If I Can Help Somebody” and “We Shall Overcome.” Rivers then erupted into booming, passionate speeches with a voice that echoed King.

“It’s an honor to be a part of the continuing legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Rivers said.

Rivers, the voice of M. Bison in Disney’s “Wreck it Ralph,” also offered some lesser-known information at the Park Academy presentation, telling students that King’s mother was murdered while she was playing the organ at church.

“But you can’t stop the music,” said Rivers, who pointed out that song is the soul of any movement.

Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Gerald C. Rivers performs as Martin Luther King Jr. during a presentation honoring the late civil rights leader.The presentation emphasized a message of hope, of rising above difficult circumstances — something Holt and Rivers both have done. With $400 in his pocket, Holt left his life in the South in 1996, finding success and a place for himself on a New York stage. Rivers grew up in Compton, Calif., in an environment where gangs ruled. His father was paralyzed in a high-speed car chase, and his best friend was shot to death at age 16.

“All of us, we can look around and say, ‘There but for the grace of God go I,” Rivers said.

But he also noted how far people can go if they decide to speak up and don’t give up — like one legendary woman who decided she wasn’t going to get out of her seat and became the lodestone of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the 1950s.

“A lady by the name of Rosa Parks decided she wasn’t going to take it anymore. You might not remember because it was a long time ago, but it was the beginning of a movement,” Rivers said.

Last verse

The words to the final verse of “We Shall Overcome” are:

“We shall live in peace, we shall live in peace / We shall live in peace someday / Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe / We shall live in peace someday.”

By Jillian Daley
503-636-1281, ext. 109
email: jdaley@lakeoswegoreview.com
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