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Dream of diversity and equality lives on

February 27, 2000|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Fourteen-year-old Lawrence Staten invited the congregation of Asbury United Methodist Church on Sunday to travel through time and change history.

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Staten, son of the Rev. Yvone Mercer-Staten, evoked the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech as part of a program to celebrate Black History Month, which ends Tuesday.

Staten speculated how the present would be different if King had not been murdered.

Ralph Abernathy, a civil rights leader who was one of King's aides, would be the 43th president, racism would be outlawed as a crime against humanity and America would be a true melting pot accepting of all people, according to Staten.

Although King was killed, Staten said the quest for diversity, equality and justice is not over. "The dream lives on in each one of us," he said.

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Sunday's program included a visual representation of spiritual unity.

Young dancers frm the Holy Boldness Club Liturgical Dance Team twirled and whirled gracefully around the seated congregants.

Accompanied by a recording of "Total Praise" by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, they began before the altar, with the tallest dancers bent forward in a circle over the others.

Wearing white turtlenecks and dark pants, they spread to the aisles, clasped hands and wheeled each other in circles. They raised their arms, beckoning skyward, as the choir sang, "You are the source of my strength" and "praise to you."

The troupe was formed as part of the HotSpot Communities Initiative in collaboration with local dance instruction company Ballet And All That Jazz, according to program coordinator Carolyn Brooks.

For about a year, several girls of varying age have been taking a dance class at the Martin Luther King Center on Saturdays from 10 to 11 a.m. A group of 17, including members of the church and community, performed at the church Sunday.

When the performance was over, shouts of "Hallelujah!" and "Amen!" came from the pews. "Aren't they wonderful?" asked Brooks from the podium.

"When we started out, we said we were going to have a dance class. It's turned out to be so much more," she said. The dancers have built friendships and learned organizational skills, according to Brooks.

She gave "Angels on Earth" awards to Kathy Stephens, 19, and Kristin Seifarth, 17, who choreographed the performance. "You are hereby certified honorary angels," Brooks said. She gave small dove-shaped pins to the dancers.

The troupe included: Jaquita Twyman, Jalisa, Christina and Gabrielle Shrader, Jemeekia Bennett-Martinez, Veronica and Valentina Wheeler, Traci Crew, Molly Green, Ebony Gaines, Jasmine and Kishia Jackson, Matrice and Raven McCall and Susie Wright, according to Brooks.

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