Celebrating Martin Luther King

Every year New Unity Fellowship members manage to squeeze a few extra chairs into their small church to accommodate the crowd that helps them celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

“Last year we packed’em in,” said Pastor Fannie Dean, the enthusiastic, high-energy leader of the congregation. She was pleased that last year’s event attracted the mayor and police chief of Oak Harbor, and she hopes to see similar dignitaries again this year.

The 20-member church choir has been practicing for the big event, which occurs tomorrow, Jan. 20, beginning at 3:30 p.m. The location is 1751 A-2 Goldie Road, in the Mission Outreach Building. Turn off Goldie Road at the big Logan Park sign.

Songs and praise dances will help the community recognize Dr. King’s contributions to American society. “It’s a big movement,” said Pastor Dean. “Martin Luther King didn’t have a problem with nobody — he just loved Jesus.”

She invites the community to help the congregation celebrate, and encourages those attending to join the singing. “If I could pull the mayor up there to sing with me, I’d pull her up there,” Dean chuckled.

Among the songs the choir will present are “We Have Overcome,” rather than the traditional “We Shall Overcome,” as well as “Wave in the Water,” and what Dean described as “The Black National Anthem — Raise Up Every Voice and Sing.” The choir consists of about 20 individuals with ages ranging from 7 to teens and adults. Kids will also read poems reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The Oak Harbor community’s celebration for Dr. King dates back to 1986, Dean said. It originated with the Oak Harbor Black Citizens Association, which organized the event for years. In recent times the New Unity Fellowship has taken the lead. “I’ve been involved ever since it started,” Dean said. The choir performed at the Navy base Tuesday in a gathering Dean described as “most spiritual.”

Donations made at tomorrow’s celebration will help support the needs of minority students at Oak Harbor High School.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day officially falls on Jan. 21. After leading the civil rights movement for more than a decade, King was assassinated in 1968. A national holiday in his honor was proclaimed by Congress in 1986.

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