Aussie kids stage musical to commemorate "I Have a Dream" anniversary

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Hundreds of primary school students have taken to a Melbourne stage to commemorate the 50th anniversary of now one of the most famous speeches in history.

A group of almost 500 primary students have reflected on the enduring racial equality message through a Melbourne concert, marking the half-century since Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Along with his fourth-grade classmates, Sudanese refugee Mading Alier has spent six months studying the video of Dr King's 1963 address.

The project was delivered in partnership with a national non-for-profit organisation, The Song Room, which provides tailored music and arts programs for disadvantaged children.

The Beatles songs and peace signs used in the concert symbolise an era 10-year-old Alier is only just discovering.

"It doesn't matter about your pigment or where you come from we are all human being and all equal," Alier told SBS.

The music was loud and the message clear as migrant and refugee children from 11 schools performed. The four momentous words "I Have a Dream" became the theme of the show.

Teacher Chrissie Van Der Hoeven said her St Andrews class of 2013 has already demonstrated an appreciation of the theme.

"He got assassinated for doing what he did - standing up for what he believed in - and if he believes everyone can be together in a perfect harmony of life, he can. It's free speech," said Alier.

"These kids don't see colour they see a person but without his work that wouldn't happen," Ms Van Der Hoeven said.

While Dr King's words resonate with the nine- and 10-year-olds, the organisers of the event said combining the powerful message with arts and performance has several benefits.  

"Children come to school more often on "Song Room" days, or when there are arts programs. Children do better academically but they also have a better social and emotional wellbeing," said Song Room’s Director of Programs Deborah Nicolson.    

Another student Achwel Machar says he has gained a new self-confidence.

"[I'm] happy and proud of myself that I'm not shy to perform in front of anyone."

Alier says the performers still get stage fright, but now they've learnt to overcome it.

"First it's quite scary, everyone's looking at you, then you just get into the mood [and] lose all fear."

Source SBS

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