Melodious music, dramatic dances and spellbound speeches kept an audience mesmerized on Friday night during a Youth Extravaganza honoring the legacy of slain Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The event was presented by Interested Citizens for Voter Registration as part of its week-long KingFest Celebration, and coordinated by Jamal Gordon, Kentra Jackson, Deaquanita R. Lancelin and Jerron Liddell. About 400 people attended the program at New St. Hurricane Missionary Baptist Church in Pine Bluff.
An array of talented youth and adults shared their gifts of Gospel singing, dancing, speaking and playing instruments.
Kourtney Smith & Company set the tone for the evening with a variety of praise and worship selections. Some stood to their feet as New St. Hurricane’s Youth Choir officially kicked off the first segment of the concert with a rousing rendition of “Pass Me Not.”
Many hollered and began waving their hands in the air when gospel recording artists The Shaw Boys began singing “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a classic made famous by Sam Cooke in 1963.
A group of little girls seated on a front pew continuously rocked from left to right with their hands up as young Zachary King sang “How Great Is Our God” and transitioned into “How Great Thou Art.” King, along with many of the other singers, received standing ovations.
“Oh Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth,” sang Kevin Crumpton Jr., who was backed by several seasoned adult vocalists and musicians during his contemporary flavored performance.
Renewed Generation, a group consisting of former classmates, accomplished nearly 10 key changes during their selection entitled “God is Great.” Singers ranging from toddlers to adults in the St. Marion District Youth Choir took the audience down memory lane with songs of yesteryear that included “Call Him Up,” “Pass Me Not” and “All In His Hands.”
The concert also displayed singers and dancers wearing fashionably trendy attire or period clothes depicting an era from the days of King.
Kendrick “KJ” Williams Jr., who was clad in large framed retro glasses, a plaid red and dark blue bow tie, dark blue sweater vest, khaki pants and plaid tennis shoes, touched the hearts of many with “Let Go, Let God” and “Praise On The Inside.”
The Voices of Heaven, an all girl group, wore black blouses and black slacks accentuated with brightly colored scarves and matching suede or satin shoes. They performed Walter Hawkins and Love Alive Choir’s “What Is This.”
Praise dancers from Old St. James Missionary Baptist Church were arrayed in black and white as they moved across the floor to a recording of “Set The Atmosphere” by Kurt Carr and the Kurt Carr Singers.
Many older adults stood up and applauded several times while watching the praise dancers from New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church. Dressed as old fashioned church ladies, the dancers emphasized the use of uniquely designed fans and white gloves during their performance to a recording of “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep” by Aretha Franklin. Most interesting to visitors was that the dance occurred primarily in the middle aisle of the church, allowing an up close and personal view for people seated nearby.
Crystal Jones, a spoken word artist, recited a poem she wrote in order to get young people to think about the importance of sacrifices made by ancestors. She addressed the negativity of reality television shows such as “16 and Pregnant,” asking if the producers were trying to promote teen pregnancy. She also said the ancestors are “rolling in their graves” when they see how much has not been achieved in education. Jones received a standing ovation and finger snaps in the air as she went to her seat.
The Old St. James Youth Choir told the story of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection during a selection that included narration.
“Why are you looking for the living among the dead,” the young narrator continued to ask throughout the song, which was enhanced by musical and vocal sound effects of an earthquake and wind blowing.
The final song for the evening came from the New Town Youth Choir. They performed “Fix Me, Jesus” from the movie “Joyful Noise” featuring Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton.