Yesterday, a line wrapped all the way around the Kennedy Center for free tickets to 2011′s Let Freedom Ring Celebration, a yearly concert presented by the Kennedy Center and Georgetown University celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
This year, Dr. Joseph Lowery received the John Thompson, Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award, for his work to better the lives of others. Dr. Lowery is best known for his work in the Civil Rights movement and for giving the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the same year he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Jarvis Matthews (COL ’12) gave the invocation, and, using Dr. Lowery’s words, reminded us to “turn to each other, not on each other.”
The event’s featured headliner was Patti LaBelle, “Queen of Rock, Godmother of Soul, and High Priestess of Good Vibrations.” LaBelle was a force of nature that had to be seen to be believed. LaBelle made her grand entrance teetering above seven-inch platform Louboutins to a roaring audience already on its feet. She quickly changed into a shorter pair of heels within reach on top of the piano.
LaBelle was joined by the Let Freedom Ring Celebration Choir, which featured Georgetown University students and singers from different churches in Washington, D.C.
The 66 year-old diabetes advocate and wig tycoon was worshipped by her audience. Labelle had no trouble rocking the crowd, taking time to pose for audience members’ cameras, answering their praise, shouting, “I love you too!”
After a few songs, LaBelle had no problem making herself feel at home, positioning her wig between every song and asking, ”Could you turn the fans on? The menopause is kicking in.”
During one song, LaBelle ended up on her knees belting, and two of her band members had to help her back up. She changed her shoes again.
The concert closed with “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and a powerful rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song.” LaBelle ended the show by throwing her mic stand across the stage and saluting the audience.
Yesterday’s concert was part of Georgetown Universisty’s “Let Freedom Ring!” Initiative, and the opener of a week of programs honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy.
Photo: Leslie E. Kossoff/LK Photos