Philly Dance The Dream

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By Roger Lee for The Dance Journal

This Wednesday, August 28, 2013 marks the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. 50 years ago thousands were present to hear the live delivery of Dr. King’s powerful words. 50 years later we are celebrating his speech as one of the greatest recorded in world history. The true beauty of “I Have A Dream” lies in its timelessness. The speech is just as profound, relevant, and soul stirring now as it was 50 years ago. It is arguably even more powerful in 2013 considering the major advances African Americans have made in America and around the world. I believe that Dr. King would be proud of the racial equality progress made in the last 50 years and hopeful of the racial equality progress to come in the next 50 years.

In a recent article for The Dance Journal, I asked how Philadelphia will celebrate the important 50th Anniversary of “I Have A Dream.” In this article, I am proud to answer the question and announce how Philadelphia will celebrate this historical day. To properly illustrate the significance of August 28, 2013, I will recap August 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C. I end this article by asking the important question “are we still dreaming?” Is America still dreaming towards greater racial equality or have we become satisfied?

Remembering August 28, 1963

August 28, 1963 had Washington, D.C. filled to the brink with visitors. On this hot summer day, hundreds of thousands of people joined together for the March on Washington. This march for jobs and freedom was a major component of the Civil Rights Movement. The march bought together everyone from college students, laborers, community activists, religious leaders, celebrities, and police. Demonstrators came from far and wide to march for jobs and freedom, network, and hear inspirational words of hope. At the end of the march, Grammy-award winning gospel music legend Mahalia Jackson sang a stirring live rendition of “How I Got Over.” This set the mood for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s highly anticipated “I Have A Dream” speech.  Dr. King concluded with the famous words “Free at last, free at last, thank God all mighty we are free at last!” The crowd erupted in thunderous applause. History was made.

Anticipating August 28, 2013

August 28, 2013 will mark the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. After writing my article asking how Philadelphia will celebrate the historic occasion, I joined forces with Dance The Dream. The organization is producing a series of dance flash mobs in public places around the world including Atlanta, Boston, Cape Town (South Africa), Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Miami, South Wales, New York, Paris, Singapore, Washington, D.C., and now Philadelphia. After reading my article, Dance The Dream’s U.S. Dance Producer asked if I would lead a Philadelphia flash mob for the special occasion. I was honored and immediately accepted the position. I felt compelled to lead the change that I wanted to see in my hometown. Since Philadelphia was having no formal celebration for “I Have A Dream”, I decided to step up and initiate the celebration. I turned my dream for Philadelphia into reality by creating the Philly Dance The Dream Jam, a free dance celebration for the local community. Here are the event details:

 

Philly Dance The Dream Jam
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 from 6-7 pm
People’s Plaza (the monument honoring the First Amendment)
5th and Market Street, Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106

This event will bring Philadelphia together for an hour of celebration, dance, fellowship, and reflection. The festivities will begin with learning a fun beginner level dance routine, continue with live music and dance improvisation, and end with the community sharing their thoughts on what the 50th Anniversary of “I Have A Dream” personally means to them. It will hopefully inspire people to reflect and answer the question “Are we still dreaming?”

Are we still dreaming?

When reflecting and preparing to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of “I Have A Dream”, I cannot help but ask the question “Are we still dreaming?” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was dreaming for a better tomorrow during a today that was filled with racism in America. 50 years later America has grown a great deal. We are now integrated, have an African American President, and have a growing presence in just about every professional industry. However, we still have a long way to go on the road materializing Dr. King’s dream of racial equality. African Americans are still discriminated against, often times in subtle ways that are more painful than the overt racism plaguing Dr. King’s day. It leaves me wondering if America is still dreaming of racial equality or have we settled for a few victories and lost sight of the full goal.

I would argue that in order for America to keep Dr. King’s dream alive and keep working towards fulfilling it, we need to have a serious discussion on racial relations in America. This conversation will not be an easy one, but it will be a beneficial one for all parties involved. It will acknowledge the country’s painful racial history, current racial tensions, and pose real tangible solutions for progress. In order to discuss racial equality, I believe that the dreams of Dr. King and other pioneers need to be promoted in the mainstream. I believe that Dr. King would want his message of peace, hope, love, and equality heard around the world. In the 21st Century, mainstream mass media makes this all possible. Dr. King’s dream needs to be heard by everyone and become so common place that discussions of race in America are no longer taboo. Rather, these discussions will be embraced, used to create new dreams, and used to fulfill Dr. King’s universal dream of racial equality.

About Roger Lee

Roger Lee is a nationally published dance journalist whose work has appeared in Dance Magazine, Dance Magazine College Guide, Dance USA/e-journal, The Dance Enthusiast, The Dance Journal, Dance Advantage, Broad Street Review, and 4dancers.org. His self-published writing includes the e-books Your Freelance Artist Advantage (2016) and Overcoming Dance Fear (2014) and the Roger Lee Arts Blog for artist career tips and interviews. Roger's dance teaching credits include Joffrey Ballet School, Broadway Dance Center, The Rock School for the Dance Education, Koresh School of Dance, Joan Myers Brown's Philadelphia School of Dance Arts, University of Pennsylvania, Eastern University, and Ursinus College. In 2012, he founded the Roger Lee Dance Company that went on to perform for Philadanco's Founders Day Concerts, WaWa Welcome America Festival, and the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Roger earned his Master's Degree in Arts Administration from Drexel University and Bachelor's Degree in Dance and Media & Communication Studies from Ursinus College.

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