Community service

Cleveland Orchestra Honors Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Laureates

from ohio Cleveland Orchestra announced the three recipients of its annual Outstanding Community Service Award, named in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The awards, which celebrate “extraordinary contributions from individuals and organizations who have positively impacted Cleveland in the spirit of the teachings of Dr. King,” will be presented to recipients at the orchestra’s Martin Luther King Concert on June 4, 2022.

This year’s winners are Joan Southgate, Dolores Blanc, and the Julia de Burgos Cultural Art Center.

Joan Southgate, who was an activist and social worker, traveled 519 miles through Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Canada, in an effort to raise awareness for the Underground Railroad. She also founded the Restoring Cleveland’s Hope organization, which was recently renamed Underground Railroad Interpretive Center, a museum that enlightens visitors about Cleveland’s role in the abolition of slavery.

Dolores White is honored for her work as a composer. She is based in Cleveland and is central to the region’s musical life, having received numerous commissions as well as various awards for her work. Her late husband, Donald White, was also extremely important for the visibility of African-American musicians: he was the first black cellist to be appointed to a major American orchestra when George Szell offered him a place in Cleveland.

The third winner is an institution rather than an individual. The Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center provides opportunities and a safe workspace for Latinx artists, youth and families. It is named after Puerto Rican civil rights activist Julia de Burgos, who fought for the independence of Puerto Rico and in particular the role women could play in that goal.

The program for the orchestra’s Martin Luther King celebration on June 4 will include music by Dolores White, Mary D. Watkins, Carlos Simon, Brian Raphael Nabors, William Grant Still and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor – as well as music in the African-American spirituality tradition. The concert will close with James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson’s beloved anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Originally slated to be held this past weekend, the Cleveland Orchestra’s 42nd Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Concert has been postponed to June 4 due to COVID-19. Tickets can be purchased, here.