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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Everything Evanston: MLK Day Celebration features several local performers



A look into the Evanston MLK Day celebration and performers’ creative processes behind their performances.

[MC4 singing “Stand Up”]

ANAVI PRAKASH: That was MC4 Music, a singing group made up of siblings Chantal, Charity, Chamaya and Carlis Moody. They performed at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration held at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center in Evanston. This year’s event took place on Saturday, Jan. 13.

[music fade in]

From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Anavi Prakash. Welcome to the latest episode of Everything Evanston, a podcast exploring all things Evanston.

Today, we are looking into the creative process behind this event’s various musical performances.

[music fade out]

GRACIE PURICELLI: *reciting a poem* But when your stomach is upset and the dust hasn’t settled / And when the Caged Bird sings, that’s when it’s the best time to unrest. / That is the time to rise as oppressed, as ones who fear for their future. / But know, without perseverance, their people and others will never be nurtured. / That is the time to take a knee, to raise a fist, to fight, to sing, so we can finally reach bliss.

ANAVI PRAKASH: That was Gracie Puricelli, a junior at Evanston Township High School performing her original poem, “How to Reach Bliss.” The poem is about a little girl who is teased at school whose peers do not stand up for her. Puricelli said she hopes her poem will help people understand that it is always the right time to do the right thing.

GRACIE PURICELLI: The time to do something that is right is not told by these certain things that usually tell us when it’s time, It’s not like an alarm that goes off. It’s a feeling that grows inside you.

ANAVI PRAKASH: Puricelli performed her poem after the Evanston Children’s Choir performed two songs under the direction of conductor Bryan Johnson. Johnson said his goal was for the children to have fun.

BRYAN JOHNSON: My goal for them was to really feel free and just smile and connect with the music and connect with the audience and I thought they did a great job of doing that today.

ANAVI PRAKASH: As for the audience? Johnson’s goal was for them to feel hope.

BYAN JOHNSON: Children, every generation, as they grow, they grow further away from the challenges that their adults had, their parents had and great grandparents had in terms of relations.

But I think seeing the kids sing with such fervor and hope gives the audience a hopefulness that, ‘ey, we’re in good hands,’ and that humanity still exists for the good.

ANAVI PRAKASH: The choir sang “This Kwanzaa” and “Pat a Pan.”

The choir had a quick turnaround between their last performance, the end-of-year holiday concert, and this one. The choir’s founder and artistic director, Gary Geiger, said he thought these two songs would be good choices for both performances.

GARY GEIGER: The one that emphasizes the principles of Kwanzaa in, you know, unity and self-determination, helping each other. And the second song, the non-Kwanzaa song, was all about everyone has a say in the world.

[ECC singing “Pat a Pan”]

ANAVI PRAKASH: That was a snippet of the choir’s performance of “Pat a Pan.” They received a standing ovation for their performance, something Geiger said has never happened before.

For Geiger, this was incredibly special because of his appreciation for MLK Day.

GARY GEIGER: I’m a middle aged white guy, but I grew up in a neighborhood that was about 90% African American in East Cleveland. And most of my friends were African American.

But I went to a high school that was mostly white because the public school in my suburb was not very good academically. So, I ended up going to a private high school and I heard a lot of racism against the people I grew up with and that really stung.

The connection I have with what I saw with African American and white relations with my upbringing really drove that home in a way that I think was very powerful and unique. That’s what I carry with me when I work with my kids.

ANAVI PRAKASH: Another performer, Ted Williams III, also had strong connections to the day due to the admiration he felt for Martin Luther King Jr. in grade school.

TED WILLIAMS III: Yo, I love Martin Luther King. This is like my favorite holiday because it is the only holiday that’s about social change.

When I was in fourth grade, I was sitting in school and I was bored and the teacher walked in and started talking about the civil rights movement and Dr. King and I perked up. I remember thinking even back then if he had not died and done all the stuff that he did, I wouldn’t even be sitting in this classroom right now.

And from fourth grade on, since that time, I have been committed to social justice.

ANAVI PRAKASH: Williams’ performance was a selection of songs from his musical “1619: The Journey Of A People.” The musical traces African-Americans’ journey to equality throughout American history. Here is an excerpt from the musical’s song called “Booker T. or Web.”

[Williams & cast singing Booker T or Web]

ANAVI PRAKASH: For Williams, performing in Evanston was important because of the city’s work with reparations.

TED WILLIAMS III: I am a member of the State Reparations Commission and we are working on trying to make a case for dealing with the past transgressions that have impacted the conditions of our country.

As far as I know of, there are only two other municipalities in the country, one in North Carolina, one in California, that have even tackled this at the same level.

Evanston will be talked about in the history – I am so honored to be a part of what you guys are doing here.

ANAVI PRAKASH: Charity Moody was also inspired by Evanston’s fight for inclusion.

CHARITY MOODY: The Evanston community is so rich and so diverse. But at times it can feel really segregated, like people from different socio-economic classes can be in completely different zones that can hang out, go to different grocery stores, go to different schools, you know.

And it is really important to remember that a lot of us want the same things and that when we are combined that we can do really impactful things.

ANAVI PRAKASH: Her group, MC4 Music, picked songs from artists during the civil rights era and based on what fit their musicality. They sang “Wade in the Water” and “Stand Up.” Both Chamaya and Chantal Moody wanted their audience to feel empowered by these songs.

CHAMAYA MOODY: I hope that they feel a sense of calm and a sense of peace that the things that we do are going to have a positive impact on generations that come after us or even the current generation.

CHANTAL MOODY: I want them to be inspired to make moves, even if they feel like it’s a small move, the smallest moves can make the greatest difference and I want people to just feel that when they hear us.

ANAVI PRAKASH: The celebration also included a performance by the Faith Temple Combined Choir and speeches from Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss, 5th Ward Alderman Bobby Burns and Pastor Carlis L. Moody Jr. For more information on the event, check out our story from the city desk.

[music fade in]

ANAVI PRAKASH: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Anavi Prakash. Thanks for listening to another episode of Everything Evanston. This episode was reported and produced by me. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Anita Li, the digital managing editors are Ashley Lee and Micah Sandy, and the editor-in-chief is Avani Kalra. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear more episodes like this.

[music fade out]

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: anavi_52

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