Martin Luther King Jr.

FILE - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledges the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial for his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington, D.C. on Aug. 28, 1963. (AP Photo/File)

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Those paying tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. at an upcoming gathering will recall his historic call to action that continues to resonate today.

The 37th annual Interfaith Remembrance Program honoring the slain civil rights leader will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Christ Centered Community Church, 531 Somerset St., Johnstown. The event is sponsored by the Johnstown chapter of the NAACP.

This year’s theme is “The Urgency of Now,” and it connects the present time to the moment in 1963 when King wrote his famous letter from Birmingham jail.

“When Dr. King was in the jail, a lot of his fellow clergy were telling him to be patient, it takes time for change to come along, but Dr. King reminded them that it was almost 100 years that they were emancipated, yet they still didn’t have voting rights and equal opportunities for jobs, housing, medical care and education,” said Alan Cashaw, president of the NAACP Johnstown Chapter. “He said it was urgent then, and that was 1963. We’re still saying it’s urgent today and that there’s equity in these same things.”

As part of the program, the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra’s string quartet will perform two pieces of music written by Black composers in tribute to King.

“Part of our grand plan is to bring unity to the Johnstown community, and music is a binding force to do that,” Cashaw said.

James Blachly, music director of the JSO, will offer the keynote address, “The Binding Power of Music.” Also featured will be local gospel singer Darlene Seals and the Rev. Brandon King performing King’s last music request before his assassination, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.”

In addition, a proclamation in honor of the late Jim Scofield, a longtime supporter and member of the NAACP Johnstown Chapter, will be read.

“We’re hoping people will have the high spirits of how music can get folks to find peace between them,” Cashaw said. “We’re not speechifying this program. We’re letting the music do the talking, and it’ll demonstrate that the unification force of music is prevalent all over the world.”

Hooded sweatshirts with the theme logo will be available for purchase for $40. Proceeds will be used to defray the cost of the program.

The service is free and open to the public. Due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, attendance will be limited to 100 people. The program also will be presented via Zoom.

To register for in-person attendance or for the Zoom link, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/celebrating-martin-luther-king-jr-with-the-johnstown-symphony-orchestra-tickets-235365924817.

Indiana County group schedules Zoom panel

The Indiana County NAACP will present “A MLK Speak Out: Facing Fears of the Inevitable” from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Monday via Zoom.

A panel of community members will name and discuss matters of the inevitable future and will provide opportunities for questions and opinions on overcoming any fears or concerns and for reimagining a world that benefits all.

There is no fee to attend, but registration is required in advance at www.facebook.com/NAACPofIndianaCounty. For more information, call 724-464-9152 or email Indiana.county.naacp@gmail.com.

UPJ students plan service at city gym

In conjunction with Martin Luther King Day of Service, Pitt-Johnstown students will be volunteering on Monday with the after-school program at Flood City Youth Fitness Academy, 200 Lincoln St., downtown Johnstown.

Students will assist with games and educational activities for the children, offering homework help and doing projects for the facility such as cleaning and painting.

“This was open to any student who wanted to go,” said Sherri Rae, interim director of equity and inclusion at Pitt-Johnstown.

She said that, when the MLK holiday was established, King’s family didn’t want it to be a day off, but rather a “day on” to do service in the community to help others.

“We’ve done this a couple times sporadically in the past when we’ve had interest, but it’s nice for the students who can’t go home for the long weekend, and it gives them something to do and a chance to get downtown and into the community,” Rae said. “We have a good partnership with the Flood City Youth Fitness Academy, so being able to take our students there and do some service is nice.”

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.

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