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Campus and community unite for commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr.

A day when the temperature didn't rise above 10 degrees became one of the hottest nights of the year in Centennial Hall last weekend as more than 1,000 people attended a community-wide commemoration of the Rev. Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. on Saturday, January 19.

Gospel music was the centerpiece of an evening highlighted by a keynote performance by the Quad Cities' own Westbrook Family Singers. Dance groups from Rock Island's Second Baptist Church and Davenport's Progressive Baptist Church performed tributes to Dr. King, as did the Augustana Choir and a community gospel chorus.

"To separate gospel music from the civil rights movement, you'd need a mighty sharp knife," said singer Gary Westbrook to the enthusiastic crowd as he and his three sisters began their keynote performance.

More than 100 singers and dancers participated in a program of music and dance that included a reading of King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" by Augustana students Teriauna Bland '11, Imari Hanserd '08, Amy Hultquist '09 and Rafael Romero '08.

The community-wide celebration was organized by a committee of campus and local leaders, including Jerry Jones '91, executive director of Rock Island's Martin Luther King Community Center.

"Have not our hearts burned and our souls rejoiced tonight?" asked the Rev. April Johnson, assistant dean of students and director of diversity, in her closing remarks. "The writer of Philippians encourages us to 'Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, we say rejoice!' We have celebrated; we have commemorated and we have been honored by the presence of the spirit in this place."

Local news coverage:

"Voices celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr." (Quad City Times - Sunday, January 20, 2008)
"Augustana event honors King" (Dispatch / Rock Island Argus - Sunday, January 20, 2008)