New Direction Choir

The "New Direction Choir" from Chicago performed at the festival in 2007.

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday Gospel Festival Celebrates 19th Year

January 12, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Illinois Wesleyan University will host the 19th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday Gospel Festival Celebration on Monday, Jan. 19, from 3 to 9 p.m. in the Westbrook Auditorium of Presser Hall (1210 Park St., Bloomington). This event, free and open to the public, honors the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Founded by the United Community Gospel Singers of Bloomington and Normal, a not-for-profit organization, and cosponsored by Illinois Wesleyan, the Gospel Festival was launched in 1991 by the late Corine G. Sims, who served as the executive director of the United Community Gospel Singers as a way to continue King's legacy.  The festival will feature several local choirs including, in order of performance: The United Community Gospel Singers of Bloomington-Normal, Ill.; The Gayles Memorial Mass Choir from Aurora; The Fantastic Jones Family from Springfield; JAM (Jesus and Me) from Bloomington; and Malcolm Williams and the Voices of Great Faith, from Chicago.

Other 2009 Events Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Illinois Wesleyan:

> Action Research Center Panel Discussions

> Fellowship Dinner With Guest Speaker Jerome Ringo

> Chapel Hour Celebrating Spirit of Change

University Chaplain Rev. Hope Luckie will give the invocation. Among others, the festival will include speakers, Rev. James E. Sims, Sr., President, U.C. Gospel, Mr. Jesse Smart from Smart Seeds, and University President Richard F. Wilson. Unique to this year’s festival, will be a special tribute to President-Elect Barack Obama, the first African-American to be elected president of the United States.

King first visited Illinois Wesleyan in February of 1961, where he addressed an audience of more than 500 people at the annual Religious Emphasis Banquet.  During his visit, he also met with classes and more informally with students during meal times.  He returned to the University five years later as a national leader of the Civil Rights Movement and as the recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.  More than 3,000 people heard him speak at the Fred Young Fieldhouse on Feb. 10, 1966.

King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968 at the age of 39. Approximately 75,000 people attended his funeral on April 9, in Atlanta, Ga.  One week after his death, former President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1968 Civil Rights Act.

Three of King's children, Yolanda, Martin III, and Rev. Bernice King, have brought their father's message of non-violent social change, social justice and brotherhood to Illinois Wesleyan throughout the years.  His nephew, Vernon King, has addressed the Gospel Festival on two occasions.

For additional information, contact Rev. James Sims at (309) 828-4602 or Carl Teichman, director of government and community relations at IWU, at (309) 556-3429.

Persons with disabilities requiring auxiliary aids, services or special arrangements for the festival may contact the University at (309) 556-3429.

Contact: Sherry Wallace and Kimberly Stabosz ‘09 (309) 556-3181