‘Rewarding and refreshing’: Locals audition for MLK Day celebration
by Rachel Gray
January 04, 2014 11:43 PM | 2434 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sydney Lopes, 12, performs a solo number during auditions for the upcoming Martin Luther King Day Jr. celebration production at the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre on Jan. 20. <br> Staff/Jeff Stanton
Sydney Lopes, 12, performs a solo number during auditions for the upcoming Martin Luther King Day Jr. celebration production at the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre on Jan. 20.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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Shelby Brown dances during an audition. Brown is with the Young Voices United Step Team in Marietta.
Shelby Brown dances during an audition. Brown is with the Young Voices United Step Team in Marietta.
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MARIETTA — For more than five minutes Saturday morning, three women in stark white tights, robes and head scarves did an interpretive dance, showing both oppression and freedom.

The performance was the group’s first audition for the chance to be chosen to dance in Cobb’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 20.

Anisa Pennie, 18, of Marietta, Candace Jones, 38, of Roswell and Symphonie Green, 17, of Alpharetta, said their group initially started at a church in Alpharetta three to four years ago as liturgical dancing, which is part of a religious worship.

Then, Pennie said, about 10 people formed the community-based dance company Exodus, “to take our message out of the walls of the church.”

Green said the trio instantly knew they wanted to perform to “I’ve Been Buked,” a contemporary arrangement of an old black spiritual song.

Some of the lyrics to the song include, “Children, I’ve been ‘buked and I’ve been scorned, Tryin’ to make this journey all alone.”

Jones said the song is about how everyone struggles, but also “liberating yourself through God.”

The group performs it every year, especially during Black History Month in February, and their interpretative dancing has touched audiences in the past, Jones said.

Green said their movements to the piece, with swooping backs and swaying arms, is about showing physically how they feel while listening to the song.



The local talent

Auditions for Cobb’s Dr. King celebration started Thursday evening and continued this morning. The final chance to audition will be next Saturday, Jan. 11, before a rehearsal scheduled Jan. 16.

Jeriene Grimes, a recent addition to the Marietta Board of Education, has been heavily involved with the NAACP for 12 years, serving as vice president of the local chapter.

“We came out of the gate,” said Grimes about Thursday evening’s auditions, in which at least two acts will be given spots in the celebration program.

Grimes said the successful auditions have made her excited word has gotten out to all corners of the area for people to join in the celebration.

“This is a rich county full of talent,” Grimes said.

Grimes said the four-person selection committee is looking for performers with stage presence, confidence, energy and relevance to the occasion.

The final program will include a variety of groups, soloists, singers and dancers, Grimes said, as well as some repeat performers, including Syndey Lopes, 12, who has sung during the celebration for the past four years.

By encouraging young participants to take the stage, audiences through the years have seen their talent grow, said Cobb NAACP president Deane Bonner.

This year’s theme is “His Dream: Hope for the Future.”

The future looked bright Saturday morning as 8-year-old Christol Stewart took the stage in a sparkling purple dress.

Stewart sang an a cappella song, written by herself, about everyone holding hands and being friends.

“Martin Luther King had a dream for you and me. For you and me to get along,” Stewart sang.

King’s world message

Bonner said she is not part of the strategic planning of Cobb’s celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but is helping with the big picture.

She said she was at the auditions Saturday morning “to see the talent first hand.”

Out of the three days of auditions, 50 to 60 performers will vie for the 18 open slots, Bonner said.

But the program is not just a talent show. Bonner said she wants the audience to feel the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Therefore, Bonner said the acts must be “King-appropriate.” “You couldn’t come to do Beyonce’s ‘Put a Ring on It,’” Bonner said.

Bonner said she is glad to have the Cobb Civic Center as a venue to display local talent. She added, in the metro Atlanta area, the Cobb celebration is one of the leading events on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

“It is rewarding and refreshing,” Bonner said.

On Jan. 20, Bonner said the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre’s more than 600 seats will be filled and 900 people will be in the overflow area in the gymnasium next door.

The event is sponsored by the Cobb County Branch of the NAACP and Cobb County Government.

Organizers tried other venue, such as a building on the Southern Polytechnic State University campus and even thought about moving to the Cobb Energy Center, off Cobb Galleria Parkway, Bonner said.

But Bonner said they have stayed at the Cobb Civic Center so residents in the nearby community can walk to the celebration.

“All of us can relate to Dr. King,” Bonner said. “Dr. King was for the world and we are glad to be part of that.”

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