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The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration at The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage

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On a rainy and cold Monday, January 16, 2017, people from all walks of life gathered inside the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage to celebrate and watch how the iconic Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., and everyday citizens risked everything to change America in “This Light of Ours”:  Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement, share a cause you would fight for and hear music from roots of American Music and the Evelyn Wright (noon-1pm) this family-friendly day.  This celebration was presented with the major support of the Community Relations of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.  Ms. Jill Miller Zimon, Vice President of the Committee, spoke during the opening remarks and stated, “it was very important that the strong relationships between the Jewish and the African Americans be continued and was an honor and privilege for me to play a part in putting on this program”.

I arrived early, around 11:00 and sat in the front row in order to reserve my seat inside the Lecture Hall to hear the great speeches by Dr. King, whose strong, freedom and human-dignity loving voice was heard and echoed through the Museum Lobby, and a huge picture with his most powerful and greatest, and unforgettable statements echoing the hallway, up to the entrance of the Museum.  We started listening to the greatest Civil Rights leader, Dr. King proudly and strongly stating his famous speeches, “Let Freedom shine and turn into an oasis of dignity, and let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York to Colorado, Georgia, and the hills of Mississippi; let us march together, struggle together, and go to jail together, and stand up for freedom and human dignity, let freedom shine”.

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At around noon, Mr. Jeffery Allen, Director of Education & Public Programs at the Museum introduced the “Evelyn Wright Quartet” performing a wonderful and most informative and educational musical piece, with Ms. Wright singing, Mr. Daris Adkins played the Guitar, Mr. George Lee played the acoustical bass, and Mr. Joe Hunter played the keyboard for an hour to the great excitement of the audience.  The special aspect of this performance was evident in the “Black Water Blues” made famous by Ms. Bessie Smith was inspired by the Mississippi flood of 1972 which left around 60,000 people homeless.  Similarly, the “Kansas City, Here I Come” concerned the early 20th century mass migration of African Americans who left the South to travel to the Northern part of the U.S. where conditions would be better and the future would become more promising for them.

It was such a great and wonderful event to attend and write about considering the fact that Dr. King is one of my greatest heroes of this great country of ours, and about whom I read and learned during my days working at the U.S. embassy and United Nations in my native country, Damascus, Syria. My own observation, and apart from the overwhelming emotions of people that Dr. King’s speeches and the great human values he fought and gave his life for, I can see how the people attending this celebration felt, some with tears in their eyes were certainly inspired by Dr. King, Champion for human rights, as well as the just, global and peaceful message that he spread and touched  each and every one of us with.

By:  George Koussa

Public Relations Administrator

Arabic Translator-Interpreter

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