On January 16th, I assisted in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Concert hosted in the 15th street Meeting House. In addition to commemorating Martin Luther King, the concert was aimed towards raising funds for the Friends shelter (held in Friend Seminary’s common room nightly). The Concert exhibited Friend Seminary’s Jazz 1 orchestra, guest saxophone soloist Steve Wilson, and vocalists Pierre Cook and Libby Johnson. Additionally, New York City’s public advocate, Letitia James, read Martin Luther King Jr.’s Riverside Church Speech.
The Friends Shelter has been in service since 1983. With the help of two alternative volunteers nightly, it provides a bed, food, and provisions for fourteen homeless people seven days a week. Operating on a small budget (with less then $3.50 a year), the shelter relies on donations from various service events on the generosity from the community. The MLK concert was therefore a great way to raise much-needed funds for the initiative. To assist, I baked brownies and cookies with several peers that were sold at the concession stand during intermission. During the concert, we heard Letitia James’ reading of MLK’s speech coupled with her hope-inspiring success story, Shannon and Libby Johnson perform James Taylor’s Shed a Little Light, and a longer set from the 15th Street Orchestra. Aside from the fundraising, the event was a great way to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr and promote the 15 Street Meeting House’s cause via music and arts. As New Yorkers, it is often that we become so accustom to encountering homelessness that we grow comfortable with it. More than just entertainment, the music and speeches that were shared brought hope and inspired help. The individual stories and musical expression made homelessness a more real and comprehensible issue, leaving me (as well as others) with the feeling that action is imperative.