Visiting choir brings MLK's message to Portola Valley


By Kate Daly

Special to The Almanac

The public is invited to a rare performance when 40 students from historically black Stillman College lift their voices to sing a work based on the words of Martin Luther King Jr. at Valley Presbyterian Church in Portola Valley on Sunday, March 10, at 3 p.m.

Affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, Stillman was founded in 1875 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where the choir regularly performs at local church services and other community events. The trip west makes for a special spring break for many who are first-generation college students.

In churches in San Francisco and Portola Valley, the choir will perform a musical tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," which he wrote when he was imprisoned for participating in a nonviolent demonstration against segregation in 1963.

Choir director Joquelyn Richardson lived in the area then, and incorporates her memories into the musical interpretation.

Admission is free, but attendees are encouraged to donate online at stillman.edu/about-us/donations or at the concerts to help underwrite students' scholarships and travel expenses.

On March 10, the choir will also join the congregation at Valley Presbyterian for an adult education session, "Black Presbyterians in the Abolition Movement," at 9:15 a.m., and the regular morning worship service at 10:45 a.m. The church is located at 945 Portola Road in Portola Valley.

Pastor Jenny Warner welcomes the day as "a rare opportunity to connect outside of the Silicon Valley to a very different part of our nation."

Organizers have invited technology, business and educational leaders to the concerts, hopeful that the choir's visit will form connections that could lead to future job opportunities for Stillman students.

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