June 19, 2022

Martin Luther Kings Jr. Community Choir San Diego Uses Their Talents to Celebrate Juneteenth

Cherry Arnold-Verry, Board Chair, The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir


The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir is an all  nonprofit organization that promotes the arts in its community and raises funds to provide scholarships for San Diego County high school seniors pursuing a college degree in the Visual or Performing Arts. To date the Choir has awarded almost $300,000 in educational grants to 223 students through its gospel concert performances and other fundraising efforts. The Choir is a diverse group made up of about 100 volunteers from all over San Diego County.

The Choir, directed by Kenneth Anderson since 1996 has performed locally, at libraries, churches, synagogues, San Diego Hospice, December Nights, the San Diego Symphony, and the annual MLK Dignity Breakfast and regionally, at the LA Airport and in Arizona. Their international performances include a 2004 tour to the Czech Republic, Austria and Italy; a 2009 tour to Denmark and the Netherlands, a 2016 educational tour in Vienna culminating with a performance at the 2016 Advent Sings event. Nationally, members of the Choir travelled to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in May 2016 and performed in historic Philadelphia, PA and Washington, DC in September of 2018.

Pastor Anderson is not only the choir director but also serves a music teacher in the public school system and Director of the UCSD Gospel Choir and Grossmont College Gospel Choir.

“We believe in what we’re doing,” Ms. Arnold-Verry, Choir President said. “We believe that this is improving community relationships.”

Recently after several concerts in local churches, attendees came up to the Choir sharing that for several reasons, they had been discouraged and troubled prior to the concert, then experienced inspiration and a more joyful attitude after listening to their repertoire composed of Negro Spirituals, gospel music, hymns and anthems.

Juneteenth honors the memory of June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers rode into Galveston, Texas and read President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to the public. President Lincoln had signed the document on January 1, 1863, but it took another two and a half years for news of freedom to reach the nearly a quarter of a million slaves in Texas.

Since Juneteenth was declared a national holiday, more local organizations are inviting MLK to be their guest Choir for special events.

This season is the 25th Anniversary Season of awarding educational grants and the 15th Anniversary Season of holding a major fundraiser, "All 'Bout the Blues", produced and directed by Arnessa Rickett-Jones.  The show was held May 21st at the Joan Kroc Theatre and highlighted the Choir's commitment to providing passionate, inspired musical theater that ignites the human spirit. The cast was all-volunteer, including San Diego County youth.  Some of San Diego's finest paid musicians enhanced the production to promote the arts to a population which is urbanized and ethnically diverse in a typically low-income, high unemployment area.  The arts and entertainment are generally not a priority, when food and shelter is. This project offered many in the targeted communities the opportunity to attend live theater and see quality musical performances by local artists and musicians.  The show brought enrichment and faith to these communities, as well as grant opportunities for local youth through the fundraising activities of the Choir. 

The Choir is committed to Martin Luther King's dream that children in our nation will one day be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. Membership in the Choir is open to singers and musicians, from all denominations, with prior choral experience. Members must have a desire to volunteer their time and talents and attend regular weekly scheduled rehearsals. Short auditions are held for new members at the start of every season in September.  Visit to find out how to join and upcoming shows. The Choir has a schedule of 45 – 50 concerts or performances per season.