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Freedom songs ring out in Pendleton

Evening at Great Pacific closes out MLK Day
Kathy Aney

East Oregonian

Published on January 15, 2018 12:01AM

Last changed on January 15, 2018 9:05PM

Georgina Johnson sings “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize “ on Monday during a Martin Luther King Day Celebration at Great Pacific in Pendleton. The song originally is a traditional folk song that became popular during the American Civil Rights Movement.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Georgina Johnson sings “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize “ on Monday during a Martin Luther King Day Celebration at Great Pacific in Pendleton. The song originally is a traditional folk song that became popular during the American Civil Rights Movement.

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Georgina Johnson, Margaret Mayer, Dan Haug, Ellen Wardell and Erin McCusker sing the traditional folk song “This Little Light of Mine” on Monday during a Martin Luther King Day Celebration at Great Pacific in Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Georgina Johnson, Margaret Mayer, Dan Haug, Ellen Wardell and Erin McCusker sing the traditional folk song “This Little Light of Mine” on Monday during a Martin Luther King Day Celebration at Great Pacific in Pendleton.

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Almost 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s violent death, Americans hold him close.

Maybe this year closer than ever.

Freedom songs rang out from the Great Pacific Wine & Coffee Co. as more than a hundred people gathered at the popular Pendleton eatery to celebrate King’s birthday. One could almost imagine MLK stepping onstage to offer inspiration in his calm, resonant voice.

A variety of performers sang about the things closest to King’s heart. One who closed their eyes to block out the sight of all those smart phones and 2018 styles could lean into the melody and cruise back to the 60s.

“We shall overcome

We shall overcome

We shall overcome someday

Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe

We shall overcome someday”

Event organizer Sarah Woodbury said King’s message continues to resound during this time of political polarization, social media bickering and disrespect for anyone who doesn’t share the same point of view.

“He was interested in changing the world non-violently — without shouting, without creating disunity,” Woodbury said. “He wanted to move forward and he wanted to do that without hate.”

The minister’s non-violent stance made him a target, though. He was arrested and assaulted. Someone planted an explosive device on his front porch that blew out his front windows.

“He held his course,” Woodbury said. “That’s something that is really hard to do. He said, ‘You need to love those people who hate you. We’re going to kneel, we’re going to march, but we’re not going to throw stones.’”

George Winter, who participated in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi in the mid-60s, spoke a few words to the crowd. MLK, he said, had both heart and eloquence.

“He spoke truth that was hard to speak,” Winter said. “He wanted us to share the work and start loving each other.”

For two hours, the tunes rolled, ricocheting off the GP’s brick walls and reminding everyone anew of a decade past that still offers so much.

Somewhere MLK was smiling broadly and snapping his fingers to the rhythm.

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Contact Kathy Aney at kaney@eastoregonian.com or 941-966-0810.



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