Gospel Festival Celebrates 20th Anniversary

December 17, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – This year marks the 20th anniversary of the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Gospel Festival. It will be held Monday, Jan. 18 from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Westbrook Auditorium of Presser Hall (1210 Park St., Bloomington). The event, free and open to the public, honors the birth of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., and is among several events on campus honoring King.

This year’s celebration will include performances by the United Community Gospel Singers Mass Choir, Gayles Memorial Mass Choir (Aurora, Ill.) Fantastic Jones Family (Springfield, Ill.), Union Baptist Church Adult Choir, Integrity Singers (Peoria, Ill.), Illinois Wesleyan Chapel Gospel Choir, Illinois State Interdenominational Youth Choir, Mt. Pisgah Sunbeam Choir, Loving Missionary Baptist Choir, JAM Production Choir, Boys and Girls Club Choir, Crosswinds Praise Dance Team, The Hour of Deliverance Youth Choir, the City of Refuge Adult Choir, Mt Pisgah Praise Dancers, and Mt. Pisgah Adult Choir.

Bloomington Mayor Steve Stockton and Illinois Wesleyan President Richard F. Wilson will provide welcoming remarks to the festival. Former Bloomington Mayor Jesse Smart and others will offer remembrances of the first festival.

Started in 1991 by Corine Sims as a joint effort with Illinois Wesleyan University and the United Community Gospel Singers, the Gospel Festival found a fitting home at Illinois Wesleyan, where King spoke twice, once in 1961 before his famous March on Washington speech, and again in 1966, after he had become the youngest man to win a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts of non-violent protest in the Civil Rights Movement. ▷ Read a story about King's visits to campus.

Barbara Sims Malone, daughter of Corine Sims and the Rev. James E. Sims, said she remembered how her mother explained the idea of the festival. “She was so excited as she sat there and told us her plan to honor Dr. King, Jr. in a gospel festival of song and dance,” said Malone.

Also honoring King's legacy:

▷ Illinois Wesleyan's Action Research Center will host a teach-in with social justice panels from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 18 in the Hansen Student Center (300 Beecher St., Bloomington).

Panelists will discuss:

1 p.m. – Racism and Social Justice, facilitated by Assistant Professor of Psychology Kira Hudson Banks, with community partner Loretta Thirtyacre of Country Financial and student speaker Kenny Woodard '10, an intern at Bloomington Urban League.

2 p.m. – Immigration and Social Justice, facilitated by Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science James Simeone, with community partner Sonny Garcia of the Central Illinois Organizing Project and student speaker Monica Shah '10, an intern at the National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children.

3 p.m. – Globalization and Social Justice, facilitated by Professor of Political Science and Director of International Studies William Munro, with community partner Ernest Coverson of Amnesty International - Midwest Office and student speaker Jessica Meyer, president of the IWU chapter of Amnesty International.

▷ The University will host a college visit day on Monday, Jan. 18 for area youth to learn about college opportunities and about King’s message of educational equality and justice.

▷ A Festival of Spirituals in tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will feature music of the civil rights movement in Evelyn Chapel at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20.

▷ Illinois Wesleyan and the United Community Gospel Singers of Bloomington and Normal, Illinois, will co-sponsor the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Fellowship Dinner on Sunday, Jan. 24.

For additional information about events honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., contact Carl Teichman at (309) 556-3429 or cteich@iwu.edu.