On Monday, Manatee and Sarasota counties will celebrate the life and achievements of a man who stood for non-violent social change and civil rights for all, regardless of color.
It’s a day when community leaders, including pastors and others, attempt to breathe life into the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message, a challenge for any single person to do since King brought so much passion and depth to his convictions.
But perhaps one of the most unusual and effective local tributes to King will be presented in a Jewish temple the day before the national holiday.
At 2 p.m. Sunday, the Rev. Charles McKenzie, a U.S. and world history teacher at Lincoln Middle School and associate minister at Mt. Tabor Missionary Baptist Church in Tallevast, will deliver excerpts from four famous King speeches during a “Music and Spoken Word Tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” at Temple Emanu-El, 151 McIntosh Road, Sarasota.
I think he would tell the people of today, like he did to the people of his day, that there is a higher law that causes us to sometimes act in ways where we are involved in dissent but dissent is not necessarily disloyalty. The higher loyalty is to the principles upon which the country was founded. As he stated in one of his speeches, ‘Conscience always asks, ‘Is it right?’ The answer is, ‘The time is always right to do what is right.’
The Rev. Charles McKenzie on what The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would say regarding current events
What might make this tribute feel like seeing King in 3-D rather than standard mode is McKenzie himself.
McKenzie has studied King for the last four decades. He has memorized parts of many of King’s speeches. He has internalized King’s powerful voice to such an extent that it has almost become his own. He has King’s hand and head movements down pat.
Many talented performers have played King and said his words, but for most of them it was a role that they moved on from, McKenzie said in an interview at the Herald’s office this week. McKenzie feels he is King’s torch-bearer, not just an actor portraying him.
“I have tried to emulate Dr. King’s values in my life,” McKenzie said.
Temple Emanu-El member Don Malawsky, who put the tribute to King together, said McKenzie’s voice and cadence bring goosebumps.
“People say when they close their eyes and hear Charles, it’s like being in a room with Dr. King,” Malawsky said.
Asked what King would say today when there has been so much racial unrest, McKenzie, channeling King, said:
“I think he would tell the people of today, like he did to the people of his day, that there is a higher law that causes us to sometimes act in ways where we are involved in dissent but dissent is not necessarily disloyalty. The higher loyalty is to the principles upon which the country was founded. As he stated in one of his speeches, ‘Conscience always asks, ‘Is it right?’ The answer is, ‘The time is always right to do what is right.’ ”
For this, the third King tribute done by Temple Emanu-El, Malawsky also summoned the The Key Chorale, Sarasota’s symphonic chorus, led by its charismatic artistic director, Joseph Caulkins.
Admission to the tribute is a $15 contribution, most of which will benefit Visible Men Academy, a charter school in Manatee County for boys of all color. Students at the school, including its principal Neil Phillips, will attend the tribute, Malawsky said.
McKenzie will host a question-and-answer period after the program.
If you go
What: “Music and Spoken Word Tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Temple Emanu-El, 151 McIntosh Road, Sarasota
Tickets: $15 contribution benefits Visible Men Academy; light refreshments after program
Information: Donald Malawsky at firstname.lastname@example.org, 941-359-2890