"Love, Respect, Unity" is not just the name of the weekend's arts festival at Patriot Hall, but it's also a big step toward fulfilment of a vision held by the Sumter County Cultural Commission and …
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Saturday, March 10
1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Art exhibit opens
Vendors, food trucks on site
3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
-- Program begins, hosted by Cynthia Hardy, OnPoint Media
-- Taylor Burrus and Lily Geddings, Bates Middle School, theatrical performance
-- Headline speaker Marjory Wentworth, South Carolina Poet Laureate -- One River One Boat
-- IMOPoeticSoul, spoken word artist
-- Caroline Mack Center for the Arts, dance performance
Sunday, March 11
Program begins with Cynthia Hardy, emcee
-- Performance by Marcus Amaker, Charleston Poet Laureate
-- Headline Speaker Alana Simmons, activist and founder of the Hate Won't Win Movement
-- Unity Choir performs, directed by Herbert Johnson
-- U.S. Air Force Band Rhythm in Blue performs
"Love, Respect, Unity" is not just the name of the weekend's arts festival at Patriot Hall, but it's also a big step toward fulfilment of a vision held by the Sumter County Cultural Commission and its executive director, Melanie Colclough. Two days of music, dance, visual art and spoken word performances at Patriot Hall will explore the variety in art and its ability to bring together a diverse population, Colclough said.
In meetings with the commission, Colclough said she found board members had also been discussing ways to unite the Sumter community through the arts.
"We have worked together on this project," she said. "Arts are a neutral way to bring people together from all walks of life. "Everybody likes music, visual art, dance and poetry."
The two-day festival will be hosted by Cynthia Hardy, host of OnPoint, the S.C. market's top weekly radio news talk show. She is also a regular guest commentator on Awareness, WIS-TV's weekly public affairs show, has appeared on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews and NBC Nightly News, and she makes frequent appearances on NPR.
The multicultural event sponsored by the commission and the Arthenia Jackson Bates Millican Foundation also features presentations by headline speakers S.C. Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth, co-author of the nonfiction book "We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel," and Alana Simmons, activist and founder of the Hate Won't Win Movement. Simmons is the granddaughter of the Rev. Daniel Simmons, who was killed with eight other worshipers by self-proclaimed white supremacist Dylann Roof on June 17, 2015, at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
Rick Jones, Millican Foundation executive director, said that several of the festival's performances are inspired by civil rights icon C.T. Vivian, who spoke in Sumter two years ago. Quotes from Vivian, a close friend and cohort of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will introduce some performances.
Other highlights of the festival include a dance performance by the Caroline Mack Center for the Arts; a theatrical presentation by Taylor Burrus and Lily Geddings of Bates Middle School; spoken word performances by IMOPoeticSoul and Charleston Poet Laureate Marcus Amaker.
Acclaimed artist and teacher Sylvester Hickmon is curating the art exhibition, featuring works by local artists.
Herbert Johnson will direct the Unity Choir, which comprises the combined vocal ensembles of Lakewood High School, Sumter Civic Chorale, First Baptist Church and Morris College, and the festival will close with a concert by the U.S. Air Force Band Rhythm in Blue.
"We're super excited about this festival," Colclough said. "We've put a lot of energy into it."
She said, "We're keeping it small for the first year, with four performances each day, but we hope it will grow and become an annual festival."
Admission is free, and the public is invited to the Love, Respect, Unity Festival at Patriot Hall, 135 Haynsworth St. The festival will be held from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday. For more information, contact the Sumter County Cultural Commission at (803) 436-2260.
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