Pastor Geremy Dixon (Courtesy photo)

Forest Lawn will mark Black History Month in a much-anticipated virtual celebration, “Preserving Honor & Excellence.” This performance of inspirational music, dance, and readings will stream live via Facebook Live on Saturday, February 13, at 12 p.m.

The celebration features Michael Ellington as emcee and spiritual keynotes by Pastor Jean Burch from Community Bible Church of Greater Pasadena and Pastor Geremy Dixon from the First Church of God Center of Hope in Inglewood.

The 2021 iteration of Forest Lawn’s annual celebration brings together acclaimed Black performers. As its name suggests, “Jazz Band” is a traditional New Orleans-style jazz band that transports listeners to the French Quarter’s Preservation Hall for a “second line” musical parade down Bourbon Street.  The bucket drummers and tap-dancing twins featured in the special number from the award-winning Broadway musical, “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk,” highlight the history of Black men in America from slavery to the present.

Vocals include tributes to a leader of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and the “High Priestess of Soul,” Nina Simone, and to rhythm and blues singer and songwriter Big Mama Thornton, who is credited for infusing Black cultural influence into the evolution of rock and roll.

The performance continues with three medleys set in 1920s Harlem during the great migration north. The music of legend Duke Ellington is followed by a tribute to the great Black opera stars who paved the way for Black classical musicians, with excerpts from Porgy & Bess. The final medley honors the music of Black Broadway, including The Wiz and The Color Purple.

Continuing Forest Lawns’ tradition of community support, the memorial park will award four Black History Month scholarships of $1,000 each to students Kyley Douglas, a San Diego State University Freshman studying to become a filmmaker; Kayli McNeil, a psychology major and music minor at California Baptist University; Aydn Morris, a Junior at St. John Bosco High School in the city of Bellflower with an interest in journalism; and Lael Williams, a Senior at Marlborough School who intends to be a physician.

“In a time when our communities are isolated and struggling through one of the most challenging periods in recent history, it is ever important to come together to celebrate,” says Rodolfo Saenz, Forest Lawn’s senior vice president, Marketing. “The Preserving Honor & Excellence celebration honors Black History Month by highlighting the impact Black artists have had on American music with a show that will delight, teach, and entertain audiences.”