Karamu House to present virtual variety program in celebration of MLK

Dyrell Barnett reenacts the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.Courtesy of KaramuDyrell Barnett reenacts the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.

To honor and celebrate the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, Jan. 18, Karamu House will premiere a video performance, “Infinite Hope,” featuring more than 20 Cleveland-area actors, singers, dancers, and musicians.

The pre-recorded jour-long program is titled “Infinite Hope” from King’s words during an address in February 1968 in Washington, D.C.: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Karamu House president and CEO Tony F. Sias says that infinite hope is what keeps Karamu House standing strong as the oldest African American theater in the country.

“Karamu House was founded 106 years ago,” says Sias. “Forty-eight years later, in 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited this very theater. Now, Karamu House remains standing in the face of the many social justice issues and disparities that continue to plague Black America.”

The performance begins with a reenactment of the “Infinite Hope” speech: “Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.”


The program goes on to include vocal and dance performances that pay tribute to the work of King, but also recognize the current struggles (and disappointments) that Black America continues to face.

Program highlights include original African dance; a concert of songs, including “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a 1900 hymn written by James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” among others; and a theatrical encore of performances from Karamu’s original “Freedom on Juneteenth” production.

Karamu House director of operations and community engagement Aseelah Shareef says she is pleased to be offering such a variety of programming in this virtual format. In addition to the 20 performers, a team of 10 technical theater professionals, including lighting, sound, multimedia, costume designers, and stage managers, work together to produce a high-quality performance. “Infinite Hope” is produced and directed by Sias, with musical direction by Dr. David M. Thomas.


“I am excited that we are now able to continue to host Karamu House’s ‘In the Tradition’ series,” says Shareef. “We’ve seen phenomenal engagement with our recent Kwanzaa program – with audiences from both around Greater Cleveland and around the country – and I’m looking forward to delivering another inspiring and engaging community program with ‘Infinite Hope.’”

The free program will premiere on Monday, Jan. 18 at 12:01 a.m. and will remain accessible with unlimited, on-demand viewing through Monday, Jan. 25 at 11:59 p.m. “Infinite Hope” can be accesses through the Karamu House website.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.