Songs Of Hope, With King In Mind


Morgan State Choir Lifts The Spirit

Ex-principal Remembers The Dream

January 23, 1991|By Edward H. Shur

Shout unto God, all the earth; sing praises unto the glory of His name; make His praise glorious.

Say unto God: "How tremendous is Thywork! Through the greatness of Thy power shall Thine enemies dwindleaway before Thee.

All the earth shall worship Thee, and shall sing praises unto Thee; They shall sing praises to Thy name."

The glorious Morgan StateUniversity Gospel Choir shouted and sang at Saturday morning's fourth annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast at Martin's Westminster. The choir did Psalm 66 proud.

This was the first time I'd had the opportunity to attend this event, sponsored by The Former Students of Robert Moton School Inc., alumni of the county's once "separate, but unequal -- albeit proud" -- (as President Richard N. Dixon put it) -- school. And it was an inspiring way to begin the day.

Beginning with the audience standing to join in with the first verse of "Lift Every Voice," the choir kept the audience's feet tapping, handsclapping and voices shouting, including mine.

Two of the best selections were a resplendent rendition of "Precious Lord," featuring three powerful soloists, and the closing medley of "Lean on Me" and "Pray for Peace." The latter was particularly appropriate in light of the Persian Gulf war.

The internationally known choir was the perfect complement to the guest speaker, Francis W. Gates of Easton, on theEastern Shore. The former Robert Moton principal -- who served 15 years on the Board of Regents at Morgan State, including as chairman from 1985 to 1990 -- accepted no fee so the group would have more moneyfor scholarships.

"This is one of the most significant tributes and important causes of our time," Gates said of the group, whose mission is providing a $700 scholarship to one African-American student at each of the five high schools. "King was one of the most generous human spirits of our time and your support epitomizes his generosity."

Gates said the significance of Monday's holiday "should not be overlooked or underestimated because it's the only one honoring a 20th-century person."

The holiday also has international importance, hesaid, especially in light of developments in Eastern Europe the pastyear.

"They have been caught up in throwing off the shackles of inhumanity, all crying, 'We Shall Overcome,' " he told the crowd of 370 people, nearly six times the number of guests at the first breakfast four years earlier.

"They are attempting to gain freedom throughnon-violence, (saying), 'Come let us reason together.' The true philosophy of King is being felt even more than that of Gandhi: Freedom, dignity and equality."

And what manner of man was King?

"He wasan apostle of love in an age of hatred who spoke of equal opportunity for all men and women to succeed in life," Gates said. "He was a mighty warrior who knew freedom of equality couldn't be won without sacrifices.

"He was a dreamer like President John F. Kennedy, who hada high calling to be an inspirational leader who asked, 'Why not?' He was an uncommon man and leader, a rare 20th-century commodity.

"King was our hope for a better day and a better tomorrow. But he's dead, and tomorrow is gone, so we are left with the awesome responsibility to keep his dream alive."

Gates told the crowd that the civil rights leader's dream must be kept alive for the current generation, which is removed from King, "which never faced overt bigotry, a generation which cries out for leadership."

"We must not just celebrateKing for one day, but commit ourselves to carry out his principles each and every day of the year."

Unfortunately, Gates said the younger generation has lost hope, and all too often turns to drugs and violence for happiness. The way to reverse that trend is through education, which will "open the minds and hearts of our youth to the highest principles."

But education is not the responsibility solely of our academic institutions, it includes the family, church and community as well, he stressed.

"All of these institutions share in the task, and when one or more fail to discharge its responsibility, education fails. It's from these institutions we have produced our leaders," he said, rattling off a list of such luminaries as Leontyne Price, Thurgood Marshall, Kweisi Mfume, Parren Mitchell and Spike Lee.

"The mind gives us knowledge, while the heart imparts wisdom. We must rededicate ourselves to this type of holistic education if we are to keep King's dream alive and realize its fruits."

If man stands for nothing, he will fall for anything, Gates said.

"The greatest victory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

The educator said our youth must be taught that hard work is the gateway to success, that they must be persistent in what they believe, thatthey must have conviction and high moral principles.

"We must remind ourselves of our self-worth. We no longer can look to others to fulfill King's dream, we must look to ourselves.

"Let history speakof King as a dreamer and of us as the fulfillment of that dream."

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