Gospel choir rocks Foundry’s great hall
LOS ANGELES – Thousands lined Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard for a parade led by Gov. Gray Davis and the mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco as communities around California celebrated the life of the martyred civil rights leader.
The King holiday was marked in a range of ways around the state. They included a community luncheon in Northern California’s Marin County, an environmental celebration in Contra Costa County and a day of educational events in San Francisco. In Southern California, a black history ceremony in Riverside and a mural painting in San Diego were among dozens of events.
In Nevada County, there was a return engagement of Marysville’s Bethel A.M.E. Church choir. It got Nevada County on its feet, singing, swaying and clapping.
“We’re going to sing ‘Down by the Riverside,’ ” Zenobia Brown Brokenbrough, director of the Gospel choir, told the standing-room-only audience in the Miners Foundry’s great hall in Nevada City. “I’m going to lay down my sword and shield,” Brokenbrough said, reciting a line from the hymn.
“Yes,” many people in the crowd murmured in response and approval.
“We need some of that today,” Brokenbrough said.
Last year the choir broke a 19-year tradition of coming to Nevada City on the assassinated civil rights leader’s birthday and held a three-hour free gospel celebration in their church instead. The choir sang the Sunday before at St. Joseph’s Cultural Hall last year.
The church noted the 149th anniversary of its founding and a descendent of some of the church’s founders, Vivian “Moms” Blanton, sang a solo on “He Walks With Me.”
This year, with tens of thousands of troops shipping out for the Middle East, the crowd’s voices rose perceptibly at the refrain, “I ain’t gonna study war no more.”
Pam Hodges, a volunteer for sponsor KVMR and repeat attender at the gospel celebration, could hear the music fine from the lobby where she tended a snack and juice bar with her 13-year-old son Camen Hodges.
Yohanna Landers brought six friends and a lot of Kleenex for the emotional peak of the gospel celebration when the crowd holds hands and sings “We Shall Overcome,” the anthem of the civil rights movement.
“It lifts my spirits,” Landers said about the event.
Tim Duvall came from the Sutter County town of Sutter with his wife Josie and their 6-year-old grandson Tristan Holst to hear the concert live. He usually listens to live broadcast on KVMR, but this year, “drove up out of the fog. We still think that the fight needs to continue,” Duvall said.
Kim Goode cradled her 5-month-old daughter, Hazel Goode, as she listened in the rear of the great hall.
“I’ve been coming the last five years just to hear the music, and just to remember how important people are,” Goode said.
San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown said he was encouraged by the participation of so many young people there, adding that King’s ”teachings, his utterances and his inspiration is now being carried by people who were never even conceived before he died.”
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