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MLK Day Celebration features #OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign and premiere of opera “I DREAM”


GRAND RAPIDS – The 32nd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration on Jan. 15 will honor the life and legacy of King with a community celebration that features Keynote Speaker April Reign, creator of the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, and the premiere of the opera “I DREAM” at Fountain Street Church. 

The celebration is open to the public and is hosted in collaboration with Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Davenport University and Opera Grand Rapids.

The MLK Celebration marks the commemoration of 55 years following the March on Washington and 50 years following the tragic assassination of the famous preacher and iconic civil rights leader. This year’s special celebration will include musical performances, inspirational speakers, and the premiere performance of Douglas Tappin’s new opera “I DREAM” by Opera Grand Rapids.

MLK Celebration Chair Bobby J. Springer hopes that the event will encourage others to reflect on what they have done to continue King’s dream.

“We are committed to Dr. King’s dream and determined to continue the legacy for which he gave his life,” said Springer. “We take this opportunity to encourage each of you to ask yourself, ‘What have I done to make Dr. King’s dream a reality?’” 

Keynote Speaker April Reign was named one of the top 15 accounts of the #BlackTwitter social media movement by The National Journal. Reign’s mission is to inspire her 70,000 Twitter followers to use their voice to create social change, challenge the status quo, and increase inclusion of underrepresented communities in the media and the world.

Another highlight of the evening is the awarding of the Inherit the Dream Scholarships by participating colleges. The Scholarships recognize students involved in community service or activates that support diversity and inclusion in the community and that demonstrate the ideals espoused by King, such as leadership, equality and inclusion.

The premiere of the semi-staged opera production “I DREAM” offers a personal look at the man behind the hero of the Civil Rights Movement, set to music that beautifully fuses opera with blues, jazz, and gospel-tinged rhythms. Opera Grand Rapids’ cast features artists well-versed in operatic repertory and gospel music, having performed at prominent international opera houses as well diverse television performances, including the “Donny and Marie Osmond Show” and the 1997 Inaugural Ball, among many others.

Composer Douglas Tappin was inspired to write “I DREAM” after pouring over hundreds of books about and by King, and interviewing those who knew and advocated with him. What emerged is a work of music theater that tells the journey toward King’s push for nonviolence and continues through his legacy.

“As I imagined his life, I saw something clear. There was a plight—people in this country with a plight. It was something he saw and experienced in childhood as he grew up in the South,” Tappin said.

The MLK Celebration will commence at 6 p.m. with the university presentation at the Fountain Street Church. The performance of “I DREAM” will follow the presentation at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome, and seating will be available on a first come basis at the door. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

Parking is available near Fountain Street Church at the Grand Rapids Community College ramp located northeast of the building, the Ellis Parking lot on 21 northeast Library Street and on surrounding streets.
    
Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley State University, one of the 100 largest universities in the nation that was established in 1960, is a four-year public university. It attracts more than 25,000 students with its high-quality programs and state-of-the-art facilities. Grand Valley provides a fully accredited liberal undergraduate and graduate education and has campuses in Allendale, Grand Rapids and Holland, and centers in Muskegon, Traverse City and Detroit. Grand Valley is a comprehensive university serving students from all 83 Michigan counties and dozens of other states and foreign countries. Grand Valley offers 88 undergraduate and 38 graduate degree programs. The university is dedicated to individual student achievement, going beyond the traditional classroom experience, with research opportunities and business partnerships. Grand Valley employs more than 3,600 people and is committed to providing a fair and equitable environment for the continued success of all.

Grand Rapids Community College
Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.

Davenport University
Founded in 1866, Davenport is a private, non-profit university serving about 7,500 students at campuses across Michigan and online. With tuition among the lowest of all private universities in the state, Davenport provides high academic quality, small class sizes, conveniently located campuses, faculty with real-world experience, and more than 60 dynamic undergraduate and graduate programs addressing in-demand careers in business, technology, health professions and urban education. More information is available at www.davenport.edu.

Opera Grand Rapids
Located in the heart of West Michigan, Opera Grand Rapids is the state’s longest-running professional opera production company. Through the creativity and excellence of this timeless art form, Opera Grand Rapids enriches the West Michigan community and provides unique and powerful experiences that move people of all ages and backgrounds. Opera Grand Rapids’ productions are produced and presented locally in West Michigan. For the productions, Opera Grand Rapids engages a cast of internationally-acclaimed artists, stage directors, conductors, choreographers, set designers, costume designers, and others, in addition to the regional Grand Rapids Symphony, and Opera Grand Rapids Chorus and Children’s Chorus.