D.C. Residents Celebrate King’s Legacy Through Music, Dance and Song
Leanne Smith Nurse, a program analyst with the Environmental Protection Agency, stood in line with hundreds early Monday at the John F. Kennedy Center to get free tickets for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day concert, but the wait was worth her while.
Nurse and friend Kathryn Harris, a local writer, were among several hundred who were lucky enough to snag tickets to see neo-soul singer India.Ariein a performance, that was highlighted by an appearance by President and Mrs. Barack Obama. The pair also saw NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo receive the John Thompson Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award for Mutombo’s contributions to the people of his native Congo. “It was a thrilling reminder of what is possible when Americans are at their best,” said Nurse, a D.C. resident.
Throughout the District, hundreds turned out for a variety of events to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., through service projects and music and song. Earlier in the day, a standing room audience celebrated at Thee Washington National Cathedral where interfaith prayers and African dancing and drumming had many applauding and giving praise. The program included a performance by the Melvin Deal African Heritage Dancers and Drummers and spirituals by the Heritage Signature Chorale. Go-go legend Chuck Brown served as emcee.
The annual tribute was the 12th hosted by the cathedral, and many noted that they look forward to attending each year. When artistic director Stanley Thurston invited the audience to join in on the civil rights tune ‘Oh, Freedom,’ the haunting melody rang off of the cathedral’s lofty ceilings.
As a diverse audience listened to a fiery spoken word presentation by Covenant Baptist Church minister Youri J. Berry, Marian Wright Edelman, head of the Children’s Defense Fund, listened intently. “It’s time for the next Civil Rights Movement if we don’t speak up about the backsliding of our children. Incarceration is becoming the new American apartheid,” said the internationally known activist.
The program concluded with an upbeat performance by the Urban Nation H.I.P.-H.O.P Choir, led by director Rickey Payton, as representatives from the Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish and Christian faiths looked on.
At the Let Freedom Ring Celebration, the 8th hosted by the Kennedy Center and Georgetown University, Rev. Constance Wheeler-Evans of Georgetown led the audience in a moment of silence for the battered island of Haiti. The National Symphony’s concert at the Kennedy Center this week will benefit the people of Haiti.
During his remarks, Obama noted that it was fitting to remember King through music and song because of civil right leader’s love for music. He pointed out that “this is a difficult time for this country and too many are struggling right now.” However, he said, “Dr. King held fast to his dream.”
During a spirited, one hour performance, India.Arie delighted a full house that sang along and applauded every song. The singer performed some of her biggest hits, including “He Heals Me”; “Ghetto”; “Strength, Wisdom and Courage “; and “Complicated Melody.”
Wearing a flowing orange top and elegant black skirt, the singer at one point shouted Happy Birthday to Michelle Obama, who earlier had celebrated her birthday on January 17th.
As a satisfied crowd left the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, a beaming Nurse said it had been a great evening. ”It was definitely worth getting her at 7 a..m.!”