Message and messenger remembered at annual King tribute in Gary
BY MICHAEL GONZALEZ Post-Tribune correspondent January 12, 2014 6:22PM
The Wirt/Emerson Concert Choir performs for the 7th Annual Martin Luther King Tribute at The Cathedral of the Holy Angels on January 12, 2014. | Jim Karczewski\Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2014 3:54PM
GARY — Moments after adding her lilting voice to 47 others to fill Holy Angels Cathedral, Milagro Martinez reflected on why the 7th Annual Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., was important to her.
“I’m biracial, so that’s the first thing, and I think that’s what (King) was all about,” said the Wirt-Emerson Visual Performing Arts senior, whose father is Mexican-American and mother is African-American. “And, I feel like every year, we look forward to this.”
The choir, donning grey robes with yellow trim, enthralled the audience with 12 songs, and Troy Patterson Thomas’ voice boomed through the cathedral, as he delivered King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech from the 1963 March on Washington.
Between stirring choral pieces, speakers touched on King’s legacy, and Ivy Tech Community College Chancellor Emeritus spoke on what King would have felt about immigration.
Valtierra, an alumnus of the former Emerson High School, quoted Emma Lazarus, whose sonnet, “The New Colossus,” is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, said King would have embraced immigration as “a people issue.”
“(King) would say, ‘Send me those who want a better life, who want to commit to improving their lot in life’,” said Valtierra, who graduated from the former Emerson High School.
Each year, the Wirt-Emerson choir clears a day in its schedule to perform at the tribute, said Concert Choir Director Marion Lynn Boynes, who walked in the March on Washington.
“It’s so important to help our young people understand the importance of the (civil rights) movement,” she said. “We need to encourage them to stand for that which is life-affirming.”
Catherine McReynolds, one of the tribute committee members, said the annual event is important to remember King and to motivate young people to accept and practice his message of non-violence.
“We want everybody in the community to know there’s a way to arrive at what you want to do in life through non-violence,” she said. “I hope parents go back home with that message for their children, to not fight or do things that are wrong and do them the right way.”