OCEANSIDE — To celebrate Black History Month, the “The Voice of King” performance, held at the Civic Center Library on Feb. 27, wove together speeches and songs of the civil rights era to share African American history and the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“We think it’s very important,” Oksana Radomyshelsky, city librarian, said. “Young and old can learn something new, something interesting.”
Dennis Brown has taken the stage for more than 25 performances of “The Voice of King” this year in libraries and schools across the U.S., including shows in Nevada, Utah, North Carolina and Kansas. Performance season for Brown starts in January and runs through February, but bookings begin as early as a year in advance.
Brown is a singer, musician and avid history buff. He studies up on the life of King and the civil rights era to enhance his performance. “Kids ask a lot of questions,” Brown said.
At 62, Brown has lived through much of the history he shares in “The Voice of King.” Raised in Los Angeles in the 1960s, Brown did not experience racial prejudice until he visited his grandfather in Arkansas. During the visit, Brown questioned why he and his grandfather were not allowed to enter through the front door of an establishment, and why folks were segregated to different sides of a performance hall to watch a show because of the color of their skin. “I was from Los Angeles and not used to that,” Brown said.
The memories of racial inequalities stuck with Brown. Now he shares how King and other civil rights leaders made a difference when he performs “The Voice of King.”
Brown has been singing since age 5 and got his first guitar at age 8. A high school teacher pushed Brown vocally to find his voice. Brown said that is when he became a singer.
Brown went back to that teacher years later with the idea to combine songs and speeches in a show to honor King and share black history. The idea developed into the performance “The Voice of King” that Brown still shares with audiences 24 years later.