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Birmingham celebrates Martin Luther King Jr

PERFORMER: Kianna Blackwood, aged 10, of the Anyone Can Sing Academy

HUNDREDS OF people celebrated what would have been Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s 83rd birthday with an inspiring night of music, song and powerful speeches.

The evening at The Drum arts centre in Birmingham ended with the audience up on their feet dancing in celebration to Stevie Wonder’s classic Happy Birthday as a tribute to Atlanta-born Dr King, an enduring icon of human rights.

More than 20 acts ranging from primary school age youngsters to veteran community activist Maxie Hayles, took up the challenge and ran with the theme of the evening: ‘overcoming the struggle.’

And one of the keynote speakers Terence Wallen quoted Dr King from his “I have a Dream” speech that he made in August 1963, five years before he was assassinated: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”

SPEAKER: Maxie Hayles

Wallen added: “The greatest tribute we can pay to Martin Luther King today is to be the dream he had 49 years ago. I know and acknowledge that the struggle continues and systems are not yet in place that will create a level playing field for my children.”

But he urged the next generation to fulfil the dreams of those who left their Caribbean homelands dreaming of a better life in Britain.

While veteran community activist Maxie Hayles, who founded the Birmingham Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit (BRAMU) in the wake of a rising number of racist attacks told of how the group had dealt with 30,000 inquiries and more than 5,000 live cases.

Recalling the case of Alton Manning who was unlawfully killed by prison officers in 1995, Mr Hayles told how black deaths in custody still happen today with often the families of the victims receiving no justice at all.

In the past, a frequent target for death threats, Mr Hayles urged the next generation to keep up the struggle for justice and fairness.

The evening was hosted by NewStyle Radio presenter Rebecca Hemmings and included performances from Black Voices, Welford Primary School, the Anyone Can Sing Academy, Inspire and Damien ‘Lil D’ Morgan.

The event was funded, organised and managed by Inspiring A New Generation, a not-for-profit community group, directed by Audrey Hayles-Parkes.

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