Racial differences faded as melody and rhythm breathed unity into the second annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at the International Bazaar in Ybor City on Sunday.
More than 400 people enjoyed African drumming, surrounded by tapestries colored by the cultures of the world. Traditional dancing brought the celebration to life, honoring the man some called “the drum major of justice.”
This event wasn’t just about a man. Short on history lecture and explanation, this event was about living the dream. The culturally mixed audience came together as a community to celebrate a way of life, a vision of possibility. The audience watched the performances, embracing the opportunity to celebrate the life and message of King.
Myron Jackson, founder and lead percussionist of the Kuumba Dancers, is said to be the founder of Tampa’s black percussion movement. He gave a brief history of slavery. What he called “civil wrongs” have been plaguing human society “all across this globe since time immemorial.” He talked of the treatment of blacks in a country that “chose to look the other way” for 450 years.
Jackson refused to call the blacks slaves, “because, ‘slaves’ dehumanizes those people who have names, those people who have regions of Africa that they came from,” he said. “It was Dr. King who came forward and said, ‘That’s enough of this.'”
Between musical performances, children from the Boys and Girls Club of America recited quotes from King’s speeches.
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools,” said a 9-year-old girl.
Natalie Jackson of the Kuumba Dancers was the emcee for the event. She threw her arms into the air, smiled and said, “If you look at who is sitting next to you, it is truly a dream that we can live.”
A high school student quoted from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Adopted in 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, this document serves as a proclamation of the rights for all human beings and exemplifies King’s message.
When the reader finished and the applause died down, a 10-year-old boy punctuated the ideology with a call to action. He quoted King: “You cannot be too radical when you are right. You can not be too conservative when you are wrong.”
Racial equality wasn’t the only issue addressed. Venus, a local poetess, recited her poem, “A-woman.” A play on ‘Amen,’ she was received with a standing ovation her message of gender equality.
Then, another performer filled the room again with the drumbeat. Introduced simply as “The Percussionist Extraordinaire,” his tireless drumming made even the timid unable to stay still. “Show the love for the talent God is sharing with us today,” said the emcee, thanking the performers.
Based on the King’s family tradition of a large Sunday dinner, the musical celebration was followed by food from around the world and a round table discussion on topics such as civil and human rights, peace, poverty, race unity, equality and freedom.