A King Celebration in Song

Norma Porter | 1/20/2010, 11:49 a.m.

President, First Lady and Family Attend

Joyce Perry and her nine-year-old daughter Jordan Holbrook were among the thousands who stood in a line that wrapped around the entrance of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and extended down Virginia Avenue in Northwest during the early morning hours on Mon., Jan 18, to get tickets to a musical tribute in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Since 2003, the Kennedy Center and Georgetown University have hosted the free concert through the Kennedy Center€s Millennium Stage program to celebrate the life and legacy of the slain civil rights leader. This year, Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter India Arie entertained a packed house along with Georgetown€s Let Freedom Ring Choir inside the center€s Concert Hall. President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia also attended the program.

€I€ve been here since 7:30 this morning to get tickets,€ said Perry, 45, a complaints manager for the National Marine Corps.

€I€ve been on the road all day. Once I got the tickets, I left to take my son back to college at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. I came out because I love Dr. King and I truly believe in his purpose,€ the Bowie resident said.

Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia credited King with being one of the many individuals responsible for America€s progress in race relations.

€We come together in a moment like this to remember a man that provided many moments that enabled such transcendence. Moments in his churches, moments from a jail in Birmingham, moments on the steps of the memorial right here next to this building in Washington,€ DeGioia told the audience before the concert got underway.

€€Moments that ensured the trajectory of our nation would transcend the bonds that held us back,€ he said.

India Arie wowed the audience as she performed songs from her third album, including her hit single, There€s Hope€ from Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship. The upbeat tune was frequently used during the Obama 2008 presidential campaign. The Let Freedom Ring Choir, under the direction of Rev. Nolan Williams, presented an original song written by Williams titled, €I am the Dream.€

President Obama also addressed the audience. He said that the concert celebrates King€s legacy in a tradition deeply rooted in the civil rights movement.

€It's fitting that we are commemorating the life of the Reverend Dr. Martin
Luther King with an evening of song. Because songs played, as all of you know, an important part in the civil rights movement that he led,€ he said.

President Obama also said that Americans must now believe in King€s dream during these tough times by remembering King€s determination.

€And yet despite all of this, despite the bitterness of the past, despite the difficulties of the present, despite the uncertainty of the future, Dr. King held fast to his dream. So tonight, let us remember the courage of the man who had that dream. Let us remember the perseverance of all those who have worked to fulfill that dream. Let us recommit ourselves to doing our part, in our own lives and as a nation, to make that dream real in the 21st century,€ the president said.

Emille Bryant, a 39-year-old Arlington, Va., resident, attended the concert to see his wife Zenziwe perform in the Let Freedom Ring Choir. Bryant, a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force, expressed his joy about celebrating King€s birthday with the nation€s first Black president.

€To have the President from any background celebrate this day is important to America because it reminds us that Dr. King€s American legacy is history that we all share. To have America€s first Black president here holds even more significance because it shows that Dr. King€s legacy has come full circle, Bryant said.