“There is a message to be brought in song.”
-Jacqueline Harney, chairman, ‘Embracing the Dream’
For the first time, the McLean Community Center plans to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s Jan. 15 birthday from 3-5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 18, with music by a 40-member choir formed from two of the oldest churches in McLean, First Baptist of Chesterbrook and Shiloh Baptist of Odrick’s Corner.
King, the Baptist minister from Montgomery, Ala., whose leadership in the 1960s shaped the Civil Rights Movement into a force that could not be turned aside, would have celebrated his 75th birthday this year.
On Thursday, three days before the MCC’s first MLK Jr. birthday event, all 380 free tickets had been "sold".
The program grew from citizens’ suggestions during the Center’s programming public hearing, held annually in March, said Sabrina Anwah, the MCC’s public information officer.
Jacqueline Harney of McLean, a member of First Baptist Church of Chesterbrook, said she responded to Anwah’s request for input, and wound up as chairman of an eight-member planning committee for the event.
Jan. 18 was selected as the date because of its proximity to King’s birthday, and planning for the event began last April.
The theme, “African Americans of McLean: Embracing the Dream,” was suggested by Chimisa Gordon-Walker, a native of Odrick’s Corner, great-great-granddaughter of Mae Hall, “a pillar of Odrick’s Corner,“ said Harney.
The two-hour program will include pieces of information about the two churches and their 130-year histories, with contact information about each one.
“As we talked about what our hope was, we are not here to entertain. We hope to inspire and inform,” said Harney. “There is a message to be brought in song.
“Your mind has been inspired, you’ve heard, you’ve seen, and you leave with a written piece. That’s a lot to ask for in two hours, but that is our dream,” she said.
“When people leave, I am hoping they will read about our churches, have an interest, and come to visit us,” she said.
“We will be able to embrace more citizens of the community to visit us and be friends of our churches.”
DAVID GRAY, SHILOH Baptist’s choir director, will direct the mass choir from the two churches, which will perform “So You Would Know,” a traditional gospel song; “Tears So Sweet,” an anthem; “I’m Free,” a slave tune; and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson, known as the Negro national anthem and regarded as the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, will be performed with the audience as the grand finale of Sunday’s program.
“[Gray] chose them based on what we were trying to convey,” said Harney. The selections present a blend of musical styles in keeping with the historic theme of the occasion.
Carolyn Bush of Shiloh Baptist, the soloist in “So You Would Know,” is a second-generation member of the church, which marks the location of Odrick’s Corner, a black community near the intersection of Lewinsville and Spring Hill roads in McLean.
Odrick’s Corner is shown in photographs in the Charlotte Troughton Corner Hall of History at the Community Center.
More & More Praise, a liturgical dance troupe from the Mount Olive Baptist Church of Centreville, will also perform.
Rose A. McElrath-Slade of Great Falls, president and CEO of Strategic Resources Inc. (SRI),of Falls Church, will give the keynote address.
The celebration is free with a ticket, available from the Alden Theater box office at 1234 Ingleside Ave. Call 703-790-0123.