The spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was present this past Monday, January 18th, in the John F. Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall for the fourteenth annual Let Freedom Ring Celebration. This celebration, a partnership with the Kennedy Center and Georgetown University, honors an individual who reflects the leadership and lifestyle of Dr. King. Every year, this individual receives the Legacy of a Dream Award.
At the start of the event, Reverend Nolan Williams, Jr. walked on stage in preparation to conduct the NEWorks Productions (Orchestra and Band) along with the Let Freedom Ring Celebration Choir, comprised of approximately 140 students, faculty and staff from Georgetown University. The traditional spiritual “Mind Stayed on Freedom” began the show with an appealing rhythm and melody that Reverend Williams created which eventually combined spoken word from Yonas Araya (community soloist). Araya brought forth a powerful message that passionately stirred from the depth of his being.
The program acknowledged John Thompson, Jr. whom the award is named after. Now, Coach Emeritus of the Georgetown basketball team, Thompson has taken on a legacy of service for his students since 1972. A man who placed a deflated basketball on his desk, always insinuated to his students that the “game wouldn’t last forever.” He believed in preparation for the future and life after college. With a 97% graduating rate out of all his students, Coach Thompson has inspired many people in his lifetime.
For Nakeisha Neal Jones, all thanks to her powerful moves with Public Allies, D.C., who received the John Thompson, Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award that evening, prepares young adults in underrepresented communities for careers in social change.
The continuation of musical selections by Reverend Williams and Yolanda Adams’ angelic voice in the latter half of the program brought forth intense memories. The program spiraled through times of racial injustice from the past to the present. Georgetown’s Black Theatre Ensemble did an impeccable job of highlighting events that have transpired in the past few months; with the words, “He Can’t Breathe, Say Her Name, Hands Up Don’t Shoot.”
Yolanda Adams, brought forth an incredible amount of energy with her voice and meaningful phrases, “There is a reason we are all here…Love really is the answer.” Her words resonated through the hall followed by the soft melody of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can fly,” which has always been my personal motto. Adams’ gift allows her to truly stand firm in her purpose to make people “feel,” as she stated that night.
Forty eight years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King left a legacy to uphold; a legacy of truth and service to all mankind. He accepted the Nobel Peace Prize with “…an audacious faith in the future of mankind.” Therefore, we, as Americans or any nation must abide by this faith in order to ensure a fruitful future for the world. As Joy Robertson, a Georgetown University student, specifically quoted Dr. King, “The time is right to do what is right.”
The most powerful and heartfelt notions of the Let Freedom Ring Celebration, were acknowledging individuals who have made a difference in the community. I commend this annual celebration for upholding Dr. King’s faith and legacy.
You can watch the entire concert here.
The Kennedy Center and Georgetown University present Let Freedom Ring! featuring Yolanda Adams was performed on January 18, 2016 at The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage-2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For future Kennedy Center events, go to their website.