Nothing short of a night to remember, the 10th annual A Shared Dream Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute Concert was surely an event that the late civil rights activist would have been proud to witness.
The lengthy but substantial concert featured several powerful speakers and talented performers of all ages who graced the stage at Brooklyn College’s Whitman Auditorium to honor King.
The free concert kicked off with a 15-minute opening performance by the Brooklyn United Marching Band, a community-based band consisting of percussion and wind instrument players.
Maintaining the momentum, the drummers and dancers of Ifetayo Youth took the stage soon after to show off their African themed rhythm.
The night slowed down as “The Star Spangled Banner” was sung by Brooklyn native Kristina Henry who stood center stage as she amazed the crowd with her opera-styled version of the National Anthem. Her performance was followed by “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” which the NAACP calls the Black National Anthem, which was harmonized by up-and-coming R&B/Pop teenage male trio Love Parq.
Well known in the Tri-State area, 107.5 WBLS’s “Sunday Praise” radio personality Liz Black was the mistress of ceremonies. Her energetic and uplifting personality infected the crowd as they became more engaged reacting livelier.
Black brought the founder of A Shared Dream Foundation, State Senator Kevin Parker, to the podium to discuss the foundation, his admiration of King, and his dedication to making King’s vision complete.
“Ultimately, what I find from Dr. King was this notion of love more than anything else,” said Parker. “The things he did in his nonviolent confrontation of the system were ultimately about love, about loving his people, love of humanity and most importantly love of his country.”
This year’s celebration was not only geared towards King but also other symbols of justice: Nelson Mandela, Congressmember Major Owens, multitalented poet Amiri Baraka, and the senator’s mother Georgia Parker.
The Chair of the board of A Shared Dream Foundation, Tani Chambers, announced plans to expand the show and engage the community. Through growth, the ultimate goal is to make the celebration of Martin Luther King become more than a yearly event.
Warmly welcomed to the stage, regular attendee of the ceremony senior United States Senator Chuck Schumer appeared at the podium and praised King as he highlighted his greatest accomplishment.
“He held up a giant mirror to America,” said Schumer. “He forced all of America to look in that mirror […] through his powers of persuasion, through his powers of intellect, through his powers of faith. He forced them to look into that mirror and they saw a mirror of America that was bigoted, hateful and unequal. By holding that mirror that only he could do, he changed America.”
Continuing to praise King’s legacy, Public Advocate of New York City Letitia James let the audience know that King’s work is far from complete.
“We just can’t be complacent,” said James. “We have got to raise standards in this country, in this city. We got to struggle; we got to keep his dream alive.”
It wasn’t all solemn. Ruby Collins and the Children of the Dream brought the crowd to their feet through laughter. The 11-man gospel group Manifest wowed the audience with its powerhouse vocals, while singer Abiah stunned the audience with his rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.”
The last hour of the ceremony turned into a semi-gospel concert. Award-winning gospel artist Donald Lawrence and his choir closed out the show, performing “The Blessing of Abraham,” “Back II Eden,” and other songs that have made them far more than just recognizable to gospel fans.
By the end of Lawrence’s set, about half of the audience was on their feet with at least one hand in the air.
This year would have been King’s 85th birthday.