The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Georgetown University will celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a free, ticketed musical tribute, the Let Freedom Ring Celebration. The annual program, part of the Center’s Millennium Stage free daily performance series, features Leslie Odom Jr. and the Let Freedom Ring Choir led by Music Producer Nolan Williams Jr., on Monday, January 16, 2023, at 6 p.m. in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.
Georgetown University will present the annual John Thompson Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award to Paula Fitzgerald, executive director of Ayuda. Since 1973, Ayuda has served more than 150,000 low-income immigrants throughout Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia. The award is given by Georgetown University to a local individual who exemplifies the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For more information about this year’s awardee and the Legacy of a Dream Award, please visit: georgetown.edu/mlk-initiative/
Free tickets—up to two per person—will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at the Hall of Nations box office, beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, January 16. This performance will be closed-captioned and will be live-streamed on the Kennedy Center Facebook and YouTube pages, and on the website at kennedy-center.org.
ABOUT LESLIE ODOM JR.
Leslie Odom Jr. is a multifaceted, award-winning vocalist, songwriter, author, and actor. With a career that spans all performance genres, he has received recognition with Tony® and Grammy Awards® as well as Emmy® and, most recently, two Academy Award® nominations for his excellence and achievements in Broadway, television, film, and music. Odom most recently starred in and performed the songs of legendary singer Sam Cooke in the critically acclaimed Amazon film adaptation of One Night in Miami…, directed by Regina King. His portrayal of the soul icon was met with widespread praise and critical acclaim, earning him nominations for an Academy Award®, BAFTA Award, Critics’ Choice Award, Golden Globe Awards®, and Screen Actors Guild Awards, among others. King also enlisted Odom to write, compose, and perform the film’s original song, “Speak Now,” for which he was nominated for an Oscar and which has since earned him a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Song as well as several other award nominations.
Odom recently starred in The Many Saints of Newark, a prequel to David Chase’s Award-winning HBO series The Sopranos that was released in theaters and on HBO Max in October 2021, and he can also be heard voicing the character of Owen Tillerman in Season 2 of the Apple TV+ animated musical-comedy series Central Park, for which he received an Emmy® nomination for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance in 2020. He also hosted CBS’s “The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back!” special live concert event., during which he performed various musical numbers throughout the 2-hour celebration along with David Byrne, John Legend, Audra McDonald and many others. His other upcoming projects include Rian Johnson’s highly anticipated sequel, Knives Out 2; and David Gordon Green’s new Exorcist trilogy. Additional film and television credits include the Disney+ filmed musical performance of the original Broadway production of Hamilton, the limited series Love in the Time of Corona, which he executive produced and co-starred opposite Nicolette Robinson, Harriet, Murder on the Orient Express, Only, Red Tails, and Smash.
Best known for his breakout role as the original Aaron Burr in the smash hit Broadway musical Hamilton, Odom won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical and a Grammy Award® as a principal soloist on the original cast recording for his performance. He made his Broadway debut in RENT at the age of 17. He also starred opposite Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo in a 2014 City Center Encores! revival of Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick…Boom! In December 2017, Odom returned to the New York City stage in a solo concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center. The cabaret-style performance was crafted around signature songs and music that shaped this artist’s journey, all performed with a world-class band in front of a live audience. The show was filmed for broadcast as an hour-long PBS special as part of the 17-time Emmy Award®-winning series, Live from Lincoln Center, and premiered in April 2018.
A Grammy Award®-winning recording artist, Odom’s self-titled debut album was part-funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign and released in 2014 by Borderlight Entertainment, Inc. His new label home, S-Curve, re-released an expanded version with additional material in June 2016, and the album reached #1 on the Billboard Jazz charts and charted in the Billboard Top 200. In winter 2017, Odom topped the charts once again with the re-release of his second album and first holiday album, Simply Christmas, as a deluxe edition with new arrangements and new songs. Simply Christmas hit #1 on iTunes and the Billboard Jazz charts, #4 on the Billboard Holiday chart, and #31 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. Odom released his third full-length album and first of original material, Mr, in November 2019, and the following October teamed up with nine-time Grammy-nominated and multi-platinum artist Sia to debut a new version of standout track “Cold.” His critically acclaimed second holiday album, The Christmas Album, was released in November 2020. He has performed at the White House, Super Bowl, and on hallowed stages such as Lincoln Center, Rockefeller Center, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
In March 2018, Odom added the title of author to his resume with the release of his book—Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher and Never Stop Learning. Written in the style of a commencement speech, the book brings together what Odom has learned in life so far, tapping into universal themes of starting something new, following your passions, discovering your own potential, and surrounding yourself with the right people. Failing Up is about unlocking your true potential and making your dreams come true even when it seems impossible. The book was published by Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers.
ABOUT THE AWARDEE
Paula Fitzgerald, Esq. is the executive director of Ayuda, a nonprofit that provides legal, social and language services to help low-income immigrants in the Washington, DC, area navigate the immigration and justice systems, heal from trauma and overcome language isolation.
As executive director, Fitzgerald leads Ayuda’s efforts to increase the availability of direct services for more than 8,000 immigrants annually. Under her leadership, Ayuda’s programs have expanded throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia to reach more low-income immigrants. She began her work with Ayuda as an immigration staff attorney and quickly advanced to managing attorney of Ayuda’s Virginia office. Prior to joining Ayuda in 2008, Fitzgerald served as an immigration staff attorney at Hogar Hispano of the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington and as an associate at Hunton & Williams LLP.
Her immigration legal work focused on humanitarian relief for individuals, children and families. She also has extensive experience in family-based immigration matters, consular processing, waivers and NACARA cases. Fitzgerald credits her mother, a Colombian immigrant who was a social worker at a school with a large Latin American immigrant population, and her father, who worked as a psychologist for the mentally ill at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital, for instilling the values that led to her work.
Fitzgerald earned a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown in 2016 and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. She graduated cum laude with a B.A. in psychology from James Madison University. Paula and her family have lived in northern Virginia for more than 40 years.
ABOUT LET FREEDOM RING CELEBRATION
As part of Georgetown University’s MLK Initiative: Let Freedom Ring!, this event builds on the success of the first joint program in January 2003, which featured the legendary Roberta Flack and attracted more than 5,000 patrons. The second, held in August of 2003, commemorated the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and featured actor, civil rights leader, and 2004 Kennedy Center Honoree, Ossie Davis. Past concerts have featured Jessye Norman in 2004; Aaron Neville in 2005; Yolanda Adams in 2006 and in 2016; Brian McKnight in 2007; Denyce Graves in 2008; Kennedy Center Honoree Aretha Franklin in 2009; India.Arie in 2010; Patti LaBelle in 2011; Bobby McFerrin in 2012; Smokey Robinson in 2013; Dionne Warwick in 2014; Natalie Cole in 2015; Gladys Knight in 2017; Vanessa Williams in 2018; and Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell in 2019, and Chaka Khan in 2020.
ABOUT GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY
Established in 1789 by Archbishop John Carroll, Georgetown is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the United States. Located in Washington D.C., Doha, Qatar, and around the world, Georgetown University is a leading academic and research institution, offering a unique educational experience that prepares the next generation of global citizens to lead and make a difference in the world.
Georgetown’s annual MLK Initiative honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through a series of academic, artistic, and extracurricular programs that examine Dr. King’s life and work and address the contemporary challenges our nation faces in order to fulfill his dream of justice and equality for all people. For more information visit: georgetown.edu/mlk-initiative/
ABOUT THE KENNEDY CENTER’S MILLENNIUM STAGE
Millennium Stage embodies the Kennedy Center mission and vision, inviting audiences to celebrate our collective cultural heritage in an inclusive, accessible way. Millennium Stage, now in its 25th season, explores countless artistic styles and inspires the community to engage in the performing arts. Welcoming local, national, and international artists, the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage is the only U.S. institution that presents a free performance, 365 days a year at 6 p.m., streamed live on the internet.
Tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at the Hall of Nations box office, beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, January 16. For more information, please visit the Kennedy Center website, the Kennedy Center Box Office, or call (202) 467–4600 or (800) 444–1324.
The digital program is here.
COVID Safety: Masks are optional in all Kennedy Center spaces for visitors and staff. If you prefer to wear a mask, you are welcome to do so. We ask that you respect others’ choices, and alert a staff member if you have any concerns.