For the 11th year, the Ashe County Arts Council will host a celebration in honor of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“It started as a diversity piece, and over the years it has developed into a family and community event,” Rebecca Williams, program director at the arts council said.
The Martin Luther King Holiday Celebration, at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 20 at the Arts Council in West Jefferson, will feature acclaimed stage actor and playwright Mike Wiley.
Wiley created his own production company based in North Carolina with an emphasis on bringing African-American stories from the “back pages of history” to the front of audiences’ minds.
“Over the years I’ve met new people, but also seen many of the same faces who come to share their experiences and recollections,” Wiley said.
The actor will also perform at the Ashe County Middle School and Ashe County High School on Tuesday, Jan. 21, presenting students with his play “One Noble Journey.”
“It’s the story of Henry Brown, who triumphed over slavery by literally putting himself in a crate and mailing himself to freedom from Richmond, Va., to Philadelphia, Pa.,” Wiley said.
He hopes to inspire his audiences to be truly engaged in the stories, and to walk away learning more about slavery life in America.
“I’m a strong believer in using the audience so that they can experience what it may have been like to actually be one of these individuals,” Wiley said.
He will present excepts from “One Nobel Journey” at the Arts Council celebration, as well as material focused on Martin Luther King.
“Mike has been with us five times over the years,” Williams said, “And he really has become part of the family.”
Wiley said that this year is special for him also, because for the first time his own family, including his 2 and 5 year old children, will accompany him to Ashe County.
“I’m extremely excited about coming back,” Wiley said, “Jane Lonon and the folks at the Arts Council are so sweet to continue to ask me back.”
The Arts Council celebration will also feature essays, speeches and tributes highlighting the message of Dr. King and his teachings of peace, unity and equality in our society.
A community choir lead by Diane Bryan-Leeper will perform freedom songs and African-American spirituals.
The event is free to the public, thanks in part to a Grassroots Arts Program Grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, and refreshments will be provided.
For more information call (336) 846-ARTS or visit www.ashecountyarts.org.