NEWARK, NJ -- The New Jersey Performing Arts Center presents the 13th Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration on Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 7 p.m. in Prudential Hall. Iconic gospel singer and 11-time Grammy-winner Shirley Caesar will headline this spirited musical celebration in honor of what would have been Dr. KingÂs 82nd birthday. A pre-performance reception at 5:30 p.m. in the Chase Room will honor Ronald B. Christian and Aimee Cox, two individuals who are advancing the principles of service and equality that Dr. King embodied in his lifetime.
Tickets for the Shirley Caesar performance are $16 for children (under 14) and range from $16 to $38 for adults. Tickets to the reception, which includes refreshments and a buffet, are $32. All tickets may be purchased by telephone at 1-888-GO-NJPAC (1-888-466-5722), at the NJPAC Box Office at One Center Street in downtown Newark, or by visiting the NJPAC web site at www.njpac.org. This event, part of the Verizon Passport to Culture: Family Time Series, is made possible in part by PSE&G and presented in collaboration with the Newark unit of the NAACP.
Shirley Caesar started her musical career in the early 1960s, singing with the vocal group the Caravans. A call to ministry led her to launch her solo career in 1966, a move that proved enormously successful. In the last four decades, she has released over 30 albums, including her most recent, "A City Called Heaven," which just received a 2011 Grammy nod for Best Traditional Gospel Album. Caesar is co-pastor of Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church in North Carolina, where she also runs her Outreach Ministries.
Honoree Rev. Dr. Ronald B. Christian -- the Senior Pastor of Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington affectionately known as "Rev. Ron" -- is this yearÂs Steward of the Dream. Under ChristianÂs leadership, Christian Love Baptist Church has grown by leaps and bounds; the congregation numbered 50 when he arrived in 2001 and today tops 6,000. It has also established numerous important social service programs including a food and clothing pantry, daycare, after-school tutoring, preschool and kindergarten programs, domestic violence and substance abuse counseling and a state-of-the-art computer lab. In addition, Christian -- a recovered drug addict who spent some time in prison -- has also played a key role in helping many fugitives safely turn themselves in to law enforcement. He also volunteers his time with numerous community organizations.
The eveningÂs honoree for Visionary of the Future is Dr. Aimee Cox, urban anthropologist, youth advocate and former professional dancer who is currently an assistant professor of African-American and African Studies at Rutgers-Newark. Cox's work is based on the idea that social transformation begins with the individual, and is fueled by the capacity to imagine, create and express the world one wants to live in. In 2004, she founded the BlackLight Project, an arts initiative that uses dance to confront issues of social justice. Cox is now collaborating with NJPAC on an in-school pilot project, teaching social justice dance as part of the core curriculum at Central High School in Newark. BlackLight is also operating as a young womenÂs program in partnership with the Sadie Nash Project, and an independent grassroots program with young people from the greater New Jersey and New York City areas.
New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), located in downtown Newark, New Jersey, is the sixth largest performing arts center in the United States. As New JerseyÂs Town Square, NJPAC brings diverse communities together, providing access to all and showcasing the StateÂs and the worldÂs best artists while acting as a leading catalyst in the revitalization of its home city. Through its extensive Arts Education programs, NJPAC is shaping the next generation of artists and arts enthusiasts.
NJPAC has attracted over 6 million visitors (more than one million children) since opening its doors in 1997, and nurtures meaningful and lasting relationships with each of its constituents. Visit www.njpac.org for more information. Programming has been made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.