Athens in Harmony

Musicians perform together for Athens in Harmony in 2017. (Courtesy: Pat Priest)

Downtown venue The Foundry will honor Martin Luther King Jr. and his achievements in its fifth annual Athens in Harmony fundraising concert on Jan. 19.

The show will feature 20 local performers paired randomly to form 10 diverse acts and will aim to demonstrate how artists from opposite backgrounds can unite across culture and genre. Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz and Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement co-founder Mokah Jasmine Johnson will emcee the event.

The concert serves as a for the benefit the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, a coalition formed in 2016 to address allegations of discrimination in downtown bars. The July 2016 death of Philando Castile and resulting rally in protest of police brutality Athens inspired the first Athens in Harmony later that year. Patricia Priest first started the event four years ago and takes on the roles of executive producer and scriptwriter.

Although the event focuses on Dr. King and his strides to fix racial inequality for the black population, Athens in Harmony intends to bring together Athenians of all nationalities and backgrounds, Priest said.

"I do see progress in the relationships [that have] forged." Priest said. "We’ve found that the goodwill generated by this concert resounds long afterward because new friendships, collaborations and fan bases are built."

Two University of Georgia students will also participate in the festivities.

Kyle Patel, a junior biology and international affairs major from Duluth, is a member of a campus acapella group called Kalakaar that performs South Asian fusion music. He will pair with Dana Downs, an Athens native whose former band The Tone Tones made a name for itself in the 1970s and opened for The B-52s and The Police. They will perform "Living for the City" by Stevie Wonder.

Patel said working with Downs was "amazing" after she proposed to perform the Stevie Wonder song.

Suvitha Viswanathan, a sophomore biology major from Athens, is performing "I Heard A Word" by Michelle Williams with recent UGA graduate Kimarah Laurent. Viswanathan said she was surrounded by music her entire life and jumped at the chance to perform at the event.

"If you’re more aware of your surroundings, it’s really easy for you to be more involved," Viswanathan said.

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