The event was held at Civic Center East where the audience heard inspiring speeches, listened to a rendition of Dr. King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” address and took part in the traditional candlelight ceremony. They also enjoyed quality entertainment provided by a professional jazz singer and the Liturgical Dancers of Antioch Baptist Church.
In keeping with the 2013 theme of the MLK State Celebration, which was “Women Who Dare to Dream,” Hazelwood’s program featured two prominent African-American women who have made significant accomplishments in the fields of medicine and music. Charles Gooden, a representative of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., State Celebration Commission for Missouri, was on hand as well to remind people about how the law creating a MLK federal holiday came into existence.
He also told the audience that the state of Missouri ranks second to Georgia in the number of MLK events held every year honoring his legacy. Gooden encouraged those in attendance to continue moving forward and sharing their experiences about Dr. King with the next generation.
The keynote speaker was Brenda Battle, Vice President for Care Delivery Innovation and Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at the University Chicago Medicine. In addition to being a registered nurse with an MBA degree, she is a St. Louis native who was named “Most Influential Minority Leader” by the St. Louis Business Journal in 2008. Battle also served on the board of the Missouri Foundation for Health and once directed the Center for Diversity and Cultural Competence at Barnes-Jewish Hospital St. Louis.
Battle told the audience that “we all have the responsibility for the cause of justice. We must be willing to defend the powerless and to make sure those who are oppressed get a fair break.” She said Dr. King understood the underlying secret that in order to achieve success, one must be willing to help others achieve success. Battle especially singled out people who have power and influence. “Those of us who are in the position of influence have a responsibility to use that influence to better the lives of others who have little or no influence,” she said.
Another African-American woman, Jeanne Trevor, dazzled the crowd with her superb vocal performances. Accompanied by Rick Zelle (pianist), Eugene Thomas (saxophonist), and Willie Murray (drummer), she belted out jazzy renditions of “It’s a Wonderful World,” “Let It Be,” and “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.” Known to many as the “First Lady of Jazz,”Trevor has performed in numerous musical theater productions at The Muny, Stages, the Black Repertory Theater, and Westport Theater. In 1998, she produced her first CD and received a Grammy Award from the National Academy of TV, Arts and Sciences for Outstanding Achievement in a commercial spot announcement.
The audience gave Christopher Cross, an 8th grade student at Hazelwood Central Middle School and member of the Hazelwood School District’s SAIL program for gifted students, a standing ovation after his speech and dramatic presentation of Dr. King’s last public address known as “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top.” His acting experience includes performing as Billy Ray, Jr., in the 2012 Black Repertory production of On Golden Pond.
The program also included several performances by the Liturgical Dancers of Antioch Baptist Church under the direction of Alba Brady-Florence. For one of their revues, the dancers dressed up and introduced themselves as different figures in Black American history before performing to the song titled, “I Know Where I’ve Been.” Also, Reverend F. Delano R. Benson, Jr., PhD, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, ended the program with a moving candlelight ceremony to honor Dr. King’s legacy.