The singer -- Neal Boyd

Friday, January 13, 2006
Neal Boyd

Sikeston native Neal Boyd is no stranger to be singled out for his race.

Growing up as a racially mixed child in Southeast Missouri Boyd looked to find his own identity. He had to strive to be accepted at first, but grew up with a large group of friends, both black and white.

"I worked on my sense of humor, because I wanted to set myself apart, and I started to foster talents to be above average."

Above average is a good way to describe Boyd today -- a renowned singer who has taken part in former Gov. Mel Carnahan's funeral, current Gov. Matt Blunt's inauguration and performances at Carnegie Hall.

His next singing engagement comes Jan. 24, when Boyd returns to Southeast Missouri from his new St. Louis home to sing at Southeast Missouri State University's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Dinner at the Show Me Center.

At the dinner Boyd will share the stage with the eldest son of the slain civil rights leader, Martin Luther King III. Boyd grew up schooled by his white mother on the Civil Rights Movement, watching tapes of King in action.

"I learned about the man through his own words."

He was also inspired by the speaking ability of the elder King, which helped him to become a mass communications major at Southeast. Singing at the dinner will be a great honor for Boyd.

"I think it's been a long time in coming," Boyd said. "I really haven't gotten the opportunity to honor Dr. King the way I'd like.

"This is my opportunity to do what I do best for him and honor his family at the same time."

Boyd has a framed picture of the late King in his bedroom and has collected his writings. He said he thinks the best way to honor King's dream is to be successful in life, something he's tried to do so far.

Continuing that success shouldn't be too hard. The calls keep coming in for more performances, said Boyd, and singing is natural for him.

"Standing in one spot and singing real loud has always been good to me."

Boyd said King's dream still has yet to be totally fulfilled, but thinks that for that to happen everyone needs to walk the walk, instead of just blowing smoke.

"In order to do what Dr. King wanted, we have to realize the dream, and we have to see each other as equals, and it's got to be more than just lip service."

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