What began as an idea for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade on Jan. 15 turned into a concert celebrating national and local civil rights history through music. The Victory Theatre has taken a leading role in planning Friday’s inaugural concert, “Beyond the Mountain Top: A Community Celebration of MLK Jr.”
Evansville African American Museum Executive Director Kori Miller had an idea from his time in Los Angeles, California, seeing the city’s parade and wondering whether the concept could translate to Evansville. The execution of a parade that size was deemed too cumbersome to pursue, especially in the middle of January with Evansville’s cool climate and unpredictable winter weather.
Last spring, Miller contacted Victory Theatre Director Lora Melone to get her ideas about what else could be done.
“Kori approached me about taking on a show that we could add to the Martin Luther King Day celebration. So, we tossed around a couple of ideas, and we ended up going with a community-based program where we feature local musicians, predominantly African American musicians,” Melone says.
“It started from the smaller committee that wanted to do a parade and then it became more focused on the concert itself. The parade concept just seemed like it was going to be a problem, but that’s where the concert started,” Miller says.
The idea of a concert was accepted by the EAAM committee. Local artists D.J. Chidi, Georgia Funkadelic, BG3, Gina Moore with Bob Green and Monte Skelton, and Dekar and the Bodyguards will perform between clips of King’s speeches, including his iconic “mountaintop” address delivered the day before his April 4, 1968, assassination in Memphis, Tennessee. The presentations will feature slideshows of past and current local civil rights trailblazers in Evansville. Miller says Mayor Stephanie Terry will sing an anthem at the start of the show, with Moore serving as the concert’s emcee.
“It was just me and (Kori) thinking about what artists we thought would be good, the best local bands in Evansville. The artists are phenomenal artists. They’re all accomplished,” Melone says. “This is really a first for us to showcase local artists on the historic stage.”
“We created a pretty powerful group of individuals,” Miller says.
The concert also is linked to a day of service and festival Saturday, which features local art, 20 vendors, a kids’ zone, and seven food trucks around the C.K. Newsome Community Center. Miller says the goal of that entire day, split between the day of service and the festival, is to encourage civic action and the betterment of the community.
The museum also will promote MLK Day-related events this month at the University of Evansville, University of Southern Indiana, Ivy Tech Community College Evansville, and community organizations.
“It’s been a learning curve,” Miller says of the process. “But we have a template to build upon now.”
“The first time is always a little more difficult. We found a lot of ways not to do it and we found some very good ways to do it,” Melone adds.
When You Go
Beyond the Mountain Top: A Community Celebration of MLK Jr.
7 p.m. Jan. 12, Victory Theatre, 600 Main St.
Tickets start at $25. Discounts are available for students and seniors.
MLK Day Concert Afterparty
Jan. 12, 7Mile Lounge, 915 Main St.
Free with a ticket stub.
MLK Beyond the Mountain Top Festival and Day of Service
Day of Service: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Jan. 13; Festival: 2-6 p.m. Jan. 13
C.K. Newsome Community Center, 100 E. Walnut St.