It’s not easy to put a new spin on an old story, even if it’s a story about a movement that changed the world.
But that’s what happens every year when the city of Columbus celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
This year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Jan. 21. In Columbus, the festivities – coordinated by the city’s Community Relations Commission – start with the Martin Luther King Jr. March, which steps off from City Hall at 4:45 p.m.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Day program runs from 6-7 p.m. at Franklin County Veterans Memorial, and that’s where the legacy of King and the Civil Rights Movement are the stars of the show.
The program is a 60-minute live TV show in three acts, hosted by Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman. Each year’s show is entirely new – there is no recycling from previous years.
Dan Willis has been producer and director for the show since 1999. He puts it together with the help of student interns from The Ohio State University’s Professional Writing minor program.
“Every year is a premiere,” Willis says. “It makes it kind of challenging for the students and for me because we just don’t repeat.”
Fortunately, there is a plethora of interesting stories from the Civil Rights Movement, and Willis and his crew mine those stories for common themes to put together a cohesive program and encourage others to help their fellow man and stand up for what they believe in.
The 2013 show is titled Guided by Faith.
“I wanted to show the importance of faith and the different ways it’s defined,” says Willis. “It’s defined from a religious standpoint, and it’s also defined from a humanistic standpoint – why do you get up in the morning and do what you do?”
The first act depicts a meeting between King and Rabbi Israel Dresner, one of the most outspoken members of the Jewish community during the Civil Rights Movement, in 1961. The second shows King composing his letter from Birmingham Jail imploring members of the clergy to come together for social justice in 1963. The third act depicts the Rev. Samuel “Billy” Kyles describing his last hour with King on the day King was assassinated, referencing 1968 but set in the present day.
BalletMet dancers, the Jazz Arts Group’s Jazz Academy and a 150-voice youth choir will provide additional entertainment.
Garth Bishop is editor of CityScene Magazine. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.