I began singing with the Martin Luther King Chorale about five years ago. I was joined by my daughter Laura for two of the three years I sang in the group. Then my son Drew joined me and Laura in the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center chorus. About 600 strong, we gathered at the foot of the Suspension Bridge to sing at the center's groundbreaking June 17, 2002, attended by more than 14,000 people. First lady Laura Bush was guest speaker, and Mohammed Ali lit the "candle of freedom."
I wrote a poem for the chorus. It read, in part:
We'll march on the bridge and our candles we'll light
And we'll sing about freedom on this most special night
It's the spirit among us that may just make things right
After centuries of struggle between black men and white ...
We were young, old, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, wealthy, poor, gay, straight, religious and not - but on that day, we were just a big group of freedom-seeking Americans, singing for peace and harmony.
Last week my wife and I attended the first members' open house at the new Freedom Center, not quite completed but a spectacular addition to the Cincinnati riverfront. Once we got past the awesome beauty and architectural splendor of this incredible new structure, we were treated to one of the most moving experiences of our lives. On the self-guided tour (assisted by eager, enthusiastic and very knowledgeable volunteers), we were treated to an overload of information about one of the most important eras of American history - the plight of the slaves attempting to escape bondage to the North, many through Cincinnati, on their perilous journey to Canada and the hope of freedom. The center is filled with carefully constructed exhibits, a variety of theaters and dioramas clearly and painfully detailing the history of the American slaves.
If you can afford it, join and support this new gem in our city. If you can't, then visit and plan to spend a day. Regardless of who you are, where you come from or what your beliefs may be, you will certainly come away with a greater understanding of the plight our African-American forebears suffered, and be moved to do more to further the hope of peace among all men.
Mike McCalmont of Anderson Township, a native Cincinnatian, is a customer service consultant, professional artist and business manager for his wife's professional organizing/personal assistance firm.
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