Augusta, Georgia ,
50 Years Later
I am pictured here standing beside the jacket which civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wore to his meeting with then President Lyndon B. Johnson. A clearer image of the jacket is seen below. Augusta, Georgia U.S.A. has significant historical legacy; it was the last city Dr. King visited to speak about realizing his global vision of human equality, only 1 week before his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee.
Humans were created with impartiality, and yet, humans have created divisions over time. Dr. King’s world vision was one of peace and harmony uniting all races and cultures; he made it his life’s mission to proclaim this message of equality. In 1968, Dr. King’s broad-minded
visions of harmony were still not readily accepted by the vast majority, and tensions still ran very high among people in the racially divided Southern U.S.A. In fact, Dr. King’s 1968 arrival in Augusta, Georgia was met with a great deal of displeasure, and 1 week later,
someone exercised their displeasure by assassinating him. Fortunately, Dr. King’s vivid dream of unity for the human race was not silenced by death, it had taken root in the minds of many people, and had made a lasting impact.
50 years following Dr. King’s untimely death, my own arrival in Augusta, Georgia was met with very different sentiments: anticipation, happiness, excitement, warmth, friendliness; with kindness, helpfulness and humanity. As a Canadian, cultural diversity is what has always made our nation beautiful, and it is hard for me to imagine diversity as being something negative and limiting. I personally have never thought to define myself in terms of something as trivial as “race”. The idea that news of my Augusta arrival back in 1968 could have been potentially met with heated disagreement is a completely foreign idea in 2019. The mere notion that some may not have been permitted to attend my concert performances 50 years ago due to prevalent ideas of segregation is very unsettling.
So, towards the end of my Augusta performance, looking out at a full concert audience composed of a beautiful multicultural sea of people gave me an especially profound moment of pause, a heartfelt feeling of peace, satisfaction and pleasure. I was so delighted that you all came. This week in the Southern U.S. made me reflect deeply on all which Dr. King selflessly sacrificed 50 years ago in the name of humanity and equality, transcending boundaries of limited thinking and paving the way for others, like myself, to visit Augusta, using music as my vehicle of peace, harmony and unity 50 years later.
The wheels of positive change were set in motion and became reality due to the persistence of one man with a dream.
Dreams are powerful.