Celebration embraces diversity

Wednesday, January 14, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:02 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 14, 2008

Mark Kelty’s directed plays before but nothing like this.

Kelty, who runs the Teen to Teen InterACT Theatre, is coordinating the theatrical program Thursday morning for the 11th Annual Columbia Values Diversity Celebration.

“This is my first year,” Kelty said. “I’ve directed many plays before, but this is different. It’s a challenge, but it’s been a good experience.”

The program, which is the centerpiece for the event that begins with a breakfast at 7 a.m., encompasses diversity in the broadest scale. During research for the program, Kelty noticed most of his notes going back to the beginning of the country and the Declaration of Independence.

“The research took me back to the structure of our nation,” Kelty said. “I found out that the Iroquois people were a representation for our own confederation.”

Seven of the actors will tell the story of Deganawidah, an Iroquois Indian prophet who along with his disciple, Hiawatha, founded the Iroquois Confederacy. The confederacy was made up of five American Indian tribes, across what is now the state of New York.

Parts of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches are woven throughout the program, but other historical figures and works, such as Henry David Thoreau, John Brown and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, also will be highlighted.

The characters will be portrayed by university students, most of whom are theater majors, along with Wale Aliyu, a senior at Rock Bridge High School, and Niakisha Morse, a senior at Hickman.

Kelty also combined two other local talents for the program. The choreography was done by Columbia Dance Academy’s Jeanne Szkolka, and the program features original music composed by Home Kookon, a local band.

Phil Steinhaus of the city’s office of community services said more than 1,000 people are expected to attend the celebration scheduled from 7 to 8:45 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Select Expo Center. The event will include music by Chump Change and Wisdom’s Cry as well as the presentation of Columbia Values Diversity awards to a family or individual along with a business or organization. The awards are based on a candidate’s impact on promoting appreciation for diversity in the community.

U.S. Sen. Kit Bond plans to formally present the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial restoration project with a $100,000 Save America’s Treasures grant, said Lee Nutter of the city’s office of volunteer services.

Announced late last year, the grant will be used for the restoration of Columbia’s Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. The restoration committee has already secured about $97,000 in city and private donations, Nutter said.

The grant, which must be matched by other funds, will be used to repair the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial at the Stadium Boulevard entrance to the MKT trail. The restoration process is anticipated to begin this spring.

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