Wisconsin’s 39th MLK 2019 Tribute


Monday, January 21, 2019, 12 Noon, the people of Wisconsin gathered to contemplate and celebrate the pursuit of equality for all. For nearly forty years, the Annual State of Wisconsin ‘Tribute & Ceremony’ honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. brings together thousands of people from across the state and the Midwest with the desire to bridge the social and cultural gaps that divide us through the celebration of King’s life and legacy in words and music.


Africasong is again pleased to have presented the State of Wisconsin’s official MLK tribute – the oldest official state celebration honoring Dr. King in our nation – free and open to all.
Wisconsin State Capitol
2 East Main Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53706
608 266-0382

mudclothband1.gifWatch The Entire MLK Event – Link to Wisconsin Public Television’s Broadcast:

Wisconsin Public Radio’s Audio Broadcast:





mudclothband1.gifBy design, the 2019 event had a womanist framing represented by a diverse collective of women from various backgrounds in recognition of the historical role of women as pioneers, change makers and innovators in every field in today’s world, and as leaders and champions of a better tomorrow not just for some, but for all.

Platinum Sponsorship


Partner Sponsorship






Support Sponsors
Summit Credit Union -Kim Sponem, CEO/President

United Way of Dane County – Renee Moe, CEO/President
UW Health & Unity Health Insurance – Dr. Alan S. Kaplan, CEO
Wisconsin Public Radio – Mike Crane, Director
Wisconsin Public Television – Jon Miskowski, Director
Contributing Sponsorship
Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club – Steve Zanoni, Manager
Heartland Litho
Ombeni African Safari’s


Rita Coburn Photo.jpg

Guest Speaker

Rita Coburn

Rita Coburn a Peabody and Emmy Award-Winning Director, Writer, and Producer with nearly four decades in radio, television, and film. Beginning her career as a producer and writer for various news outlets across the U.S., Coburn went on to produce for the likes of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah Radio, Apollo Live! And Walt Disney Productions. In 2016, “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,” which was co-directed and co-produced by Coburn, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Festival and went on to win a Peabody Award in 2017. The documentary featured interviews conducted by Coburn Whack with world-renowned talent and public figures – President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, and more.

Coburn’s value is such that she bridges the gap between generations and preserves African-American history. Through her work, she uniquely addresses topics from a multi-generational lens with a passion for impacting others through the untold stories of prominent figures and key ideals relevant to African-American culture.

Coburn (under the then name of Rita Coburn Whack) is also the author of “Meant to Be,” published by Random House/Strivers Row in 2001. The Rita Coburn Whack Papers collection, containing 40+ oral history interviews and audiovisual materials from public radio work and from documentaries created for public television, is currently housed at various institutions across the United States.


Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers
Dr. Jonathan Overby
Rabbi Andrea Steinberger
2019 Memorial Honor Detail
MLK Women’s Mass Choir
Rita Coburn
James C. Wright Middle School ‘Dream Team’
The 2nd Isthmian Highlanders
Prince Hall Masonic Order – Capitol City Lodge #2
Becca May Grant, Tamera Stanley
James C. Wright Middle School Scholars ‘Dream’ Team
Presentation of State Proclamation Honoring Dr. King
Presentation of 2019 MLK Heritage Awards
Musical Guests
Chicago’s Victory Travelers Gospel Quartet



mudclothband1.gifWisconsin 2019 MLK Heritage Award
Posthumously presented to Sandra Parks, who called for “peace and empathy” was killed when gunshots were fired into her house near 13th and Hopkins in Milwaukee, WI, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. Sandra, a student and award- winning writer at Keefe Avenue Middle School was 13 when she was killed by a stray bullet while in her own home on a school night just before Thanksgiving. She was a 2016-17 winner of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. writing contest and the subject of her winning essay, told and retold by media outlets across the globe, was gun violence. She titled it “Our Truth”.

Sometimes, I sit back and I have to escape from what I see and hear every day. I put my headphones on and let the music take me away. I move to the beat and try to think about life and what everything means. When I do; I come to the same conclusion… we are in a state of chaos. In the city in which I live, I hear and see examples of chaos almost everyday. Little children are victims of senseless gun violence. There is too much black on black crime. As an African-American, that makes me feel depressed. Many people have lost faith in America and its ability to be a living example of Dr. King’s dream!

The truth is faith and hope in what people can do, has been lost in the poor choices we make. We shall overcome has been lost in the lie of who we have become! So now, the real truth is, we need to rewrite our story so that faith and hope for a better tomorrow, is not only within us, but we believe it and we put it into actions.

Our first truth is that we must start caring about each other. We need to be empathetic and try to walk in each other’s shoes. We shall overcome when we eliminate the negative and nasty comments people make about each other. We shall overcome, when we love ourselves and the people around us. Then, we become our brothers keeper.

Our second truth is that we need to have purpose. We are the future generation, therefore we must have an education to make a positive difference in the world. We are the future leaders, but if we don’t have an education, we will accomplish nothing. We will overcome, when we use our education to make the world a better place. We will become the next President, law enforcement officers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and law makers. We cannot continue to put the responsibility on other people. It is our responsibility as future leaders!

We must not allow the lies of violence, racism, and prejudice to be our truth. The truth begins with us. Instead of passing each other like ships in the night, we must fight until our truths stretch to the ends of the world.  – Sandra Parks


Patty Loew, a professor in the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and director of NU’s Center for Native American and Indigenous Research. Dr. Loew, a documentary producer, and former broadcast journalist in public and commercial television, including Way of the Warrior, which aired nationally on PBS in 2007 and 2011.

Professor Loew is a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, the author of four books: one is Native People of Wisconsin, used by 18,000 Wisconsin school children as a social studies textbook. Her outreach work focuses on Native American youth and digital storytelling.

The Annual MLK Heritage Award is presented annually in recognition of community service to the residents of the State of Wisconsin.  Nominations are reviewed by a collective representing the Governor’s office, MLK Planning Group, Africasong Board and private citizens.  Submissions are accepted between September 1 and December 1 of each year.  Only Wisconsin-based individuals, groups and agencies are accepted. Nominations must be submitted by post and addressed to Africasong Communications, PO Box 12, Columbus, Wisconsin 53925.  All submissions including ‘self-nominations’ require three written letters of support, CV or mission profile and, contact information.  Awardees will be notified by December 31 of each year and are required to accept or decline the honor in written form.  The awards are announced and presented at the annual MLK state event.  For additional information e-mail: admin@africasong.org


mudclothband1.gifWITH GRATITUDE
Wisconsin Air and Army National Guard Honor DetailSSG Liam Walsh, TSgt Michael Wallace, SSgt Matthew Lundy, SrA Kristy Jorgensen, A1C Alex King with Prince Hall Masons –Capital City Lodge #2, The 2nd Isthmian Highlanders
Edgewood High School
Student Volunteers, Joan Rundhaug-Witz, Barbara Sella
Tamera Stanley
Director MLK Women’s Mass Choir
Paul Fanlund
Editor and Publisher, The Cap Times
Michael Kornemann
Capital Times Chief Revenue Officer
Dr. Scott Jones
Staff Secretary – Office of the Governor
Erik Norin
Heartland Litho
Vernee Harris
Hair Stylist, Vernee Nycole House of Beauty
Carola and Clyde Gaines
Assistants To The Guest Speaker
James C. Wright Middle School ‘Dream’ Team|
Jada Matson-7th grade
Chelsie Uscanga -7th grade
Tadaria Ross-6th grade
Dr. Angie Hicks
Principal James C. Wright Middle School – Madison
Spoken Word Excerpt Adaptation of Dr. King’s
“I Have A Dream” speech arranged by J.L. Overby, 2018
Jonathan Grambling
Editor and Publisher, Madison Hues
Stephanie Elkins
Wisconsin Public Radio
Sue Barica
Wisconsin Department of the Administration
Kelly J. Bradley
Department of Military Affairs
Dr. Christlyn Frederick-Stanley
Principal Keefe Avenue Middle School – Milwaukee
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority


Wisconsin Public Television Production Crew
Russell Awe, Tommy Bruno, Madeline Buetow,
Zachary Chart, Donna Crane, Mike Foley, John Gerbig,
Michael Hansen, Marian Herzog, Kurt Kaspar, Vicki Way Kipp,
Matthew Kramer, Tom Micksch, Sigrid Peterson, Veronica Plum,
Amanda Richardson, Rachael Romaniak, Emily Rubasch,
Tim Schneider, Eric Schwierske, Curt Sorensen,
Ben White, Ann Wilkens, Sam Wirth

Wisconsin Public Radio Staff
Sheryl Gasser, Ideas Network Director
Peter Bryant, News & Classical Music Network Director
Aubrey Ralph, Manager – Radio Operations Control
Joe Hardtke, Technical Director
Dave Potratz, Network Operator
Realtime Captioning
Riverside Captioning Company
Audio Provided By
Intellasound Productions

MLK 2019 Planning Group
Debbie Biddle, Chair
Amy Overby, Managing Director
Erin McConnell, Production Manager
Becca May Grant, Music Director
Ramaun Harris, Audience & Dais Director
Ryan Helgeson, Facilities & Set Director
Page Metcalf, Assistant Stage Manager
Nile Ostenso, Photographer


Many Thanks To
Deborah A. Biddle, Chair
2019 WI State MLK Planning Group

The 2019 MLK Event was produced and directed by Dr. Jonathan L. Overby.
An Africasong Communications Production. All Rights Reserved.


Cropped Pin Artwork 12.13.18-page-001.jpg2019 MLK Souvenir Lapel Pin
$25.00 Tax-Deductible Donation – Available 1.21.19
Includes a souvenir 2019 event program (while they last)
To Order Your Limited Edition Pin
Send Check or Money Order To
Africasong Communications
PO Box 12 Columbus, Wisconsin 53925
                                  (allow 3 weeks for processing and delivery)


Dear friends, please support Africasong with a contribution in any amount.  As a Wisconsin registered not-for-profit 501c3 agency, we rely on corporate grants and private donations to sustain our programming designed to edify, educate and entertain the residents of Wisconsin and beyond.  The annual MLK event is our most significant and primary production each year. And its success depends on the funding provided through the generosity of those who are committed to the work of Africasong.  The civic productions, music events, and programming that present exist because of you.  Only 2% of all funds raised are used for administrative costs.  Moreover, all of the board members and staff are volunteers.  Please send your tax-deductible gift today.  Thank you!
Africasong Communications
PO Box 12
Columbus, Wisconsin 53925


(Reprinted by Permission 1.4.19) The following views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Africasong Communications or it’s affiliations with those who are associated with Wisconsin’s Annual MLK event.


Paul Fanlund is editor and publisher of The Capital Times. A longtime Madisonian, he was a State Journal reporter and editor before becoming a vice president of Madison Newspapers. He joined the Cap Times in 2006.

“Alexa, play NPR news,” is how I start my mornings.

But during the recent holidays, I found myself interrupting National Public Radio at mid-newscast to redirect to classical music. Donald Trump news items were overwhelming what is supposed to be a season for reflection and celebration.

The incessant reports of Trump’s lies and tantrums about his proposed border wall and partial federal government shutdown proved too much. Compounding it was Trump’s vitriol directed at critics, one day a four-star general, and the next a former Republican presidential candidate.

So, I reasoned, why not make my first column of 2019 about something different, something uplifting. I start in the state Capitol Building Rotunda, looking ahead to the 39th annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. at noon on Jan. 21.

This lively yet majestic celebration of King’s legacy, with its rousing music and moving speeches, has become a mainstay on the mid-winter Capitol calendar, now more than 50 years since his assassination at age 39. The title this year is “Truth is Marching.” The program focuses on women as pioneers, change makers and innovators, said Dr. Jonathan Overby, the long-time producer and emcee of the event, which is broadcast on public radio and television.

(I should note that the Evjue Foundation, the charitable arm of The Capital Times, has financially supported the MLK event for 20 years, and is again this year.)

Wisconsin’s celebration is the oldest official King commemoration in the nation. It has featured guests such as former U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm; Ambassador Attallah Shabazz, the eldest daughter of Malcolm X; Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of Emmitt Till; the Rev. C.T. Vivian, a civil rights activist and King associate; Ruby Dee and Cicily Tyson, both actresses and activists; actor and pastor Clifton Davis; actor and activist Paul Winfield; Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller, and journalists Roland Martin and Van Jones.

This year’s featured speaker is Rita Coburn, an award-winning multi-media writer, director and producer from Chicago whose documentary work has garnered three Emmys. Coburn, who owns a multimedia production company, has appeared on C-SPAN and The History Channel. She co-directed and co-produced “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,” a documentary about the late poet and civil rights activist that won a 2017 Peabody Award.

In a telephone interview, she told me she is excited to focus on honoring women as she plans her Madison remarks and wants to put the role of women in the historical context of civil rights. “You get to become a documentarian not because that’s what you are, but before that happened, you had an interest in history and the history of your people, and I’ve always had that. My mother is 96, and my grandfather, her father, was born into slavery.  “When I heard the stories, what I understood was how hard it is to be a black person in America, then and now,” she said. “I mean, even now, it is still a sense of almost post-traumatic stress syndrome for people.”

She added: “I think we need to be really aware of what we’re doing when we look at racism and when we look at privilege in this country. I have always studied women. For public radio, I used to almost exclusively interview women writers, from Alice Walker, to Toni Morrison, to Shauna Singh Baldwin, to Amy Tan. I was interested in women in general and black women in particular, and so this opportunity brings that all together for me.”

To prepare, she said she’s rereading King’s “Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story,” King’s accounts of the Alabama bus boycotts of 1955 and 1956. She noted King wrote the book the same year she was born – 1958. “The reason I’m re-reading that is because it talks about the first time the marching was done, the first march, which was really the boycott. I’m looking at the women who were a part of that.

“I’ve been weaving the stories, and of course, I’m a writer. I have to contextualize this history as it relates to him (King), as it relates to women, and I do homework. I’ve looked back and seen several of your (recorded Wisconsin MLK Day) celebrations, and the one thing that I love so much is the diversity across race, across religion, and also the intergenerational (involvement) because that’s what we’re going to have to do to make this a better place.”

She added: “Everybody should be included in a conversation that talks about how we really get forward, how my child is as important to me as your child is important to you, and if we don’t really believe that, it shows in our politics, and if we really believe that, it should also show in our politics. To be silent is to be complicit, and we can’t afford to do that.”

Overby, who organizes the event every year with his wife, Amy Overby, and other volunteers, wants this year’s event to emphasize women without being patronizing.

“Had it not been for women, the movement would not have achieved the kind of success, from Rosa Parks to Mahalia Jackson, to some of the authors and writers,” Overby said.

He said the program “is a response to how women have been treated, how they’ve been spoken to and about, and the timing just seems like it has just come together to recognize that we need to change the pathway that we’re on. And that women indeed have been the pioneers, they’re the innovators of today’s world.”

At last year’s event, I chatted on the dais with Tony Evers, then the comparatively obscure state school superintendent who was among the many Democrats hoping to face Republican Gov. Scott Walker. He suggested we should meet to get better acquainted, and we later did, in what felt like a storage room in his modest Capitol Square campaign office.

Evers will return this year, two weeks removed from his inauguration as governor, and he too will speak.  Like I said, it’s a new year, and a chance to pivot to the happy and hopeful.  Paul Fanlund is editor and publisher of The Capital Times. A longtime Madisonian, he was a State Journal reporter and editor before becoming a vice president of Madison Newspapers. He joined the Cap Times in 2006.
1.4.19 Reprinted with Permission


40th MLK Tribute and Ceremony
Monday, January, 20, 2020
Planning has already begun!

Join the “Women’s MLK Mass Choir” scheduled to perform at Wisconsin’s 40th State Tribute and Ceremony honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 12 Noon,
Monday, January 20, 2020, at the State Capitol Rotunda in Madison.

On behalf of Africasong Communications, Executive Director and Producer Dr. Jonathan Overby, Wisconsin’s Governor’s Office and the 40th Anniversary MLK Planning Group, the 2020 event will again feature an all-women’s mass choir comprised of vocalists from across the state.
Two Rehearsals Only! Tuesday, January 7, 2020, and Friday, January 17, 2020
Location to be announced
To join, register in advance by e-mailing: admin@africasong.org

If you would like to volunteer for this grand affair
contact us by email at: admin@africasong.org