Yesterday evening, The Kennedy Center and Georgetown University hosted the annual Let Freedom Ring Celebration, a musical celebration commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year’s concert featured a special performance by Grammy-winning vocalist Bobby McFerrin. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama also attended.
Toddchelle Young (COL ’12) delivered the invocation and included prayers for peace in Syria, for survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, “all those affected by natural disasters in 2011,” and for the presidential candidates running in the 2012 election.
Clarence Jones was presented the John Thompson Legacy of a Dream Award by University president John J. DeGioia and former Men’s Basketball Head Coach John Thompson, Jr. This award is given to an individual or organization whose contributions to community service or social justice reflect the values and ideals of Dr. King. Jones was a speech writer and advisor to Dr. King, and was instrumental in distributing his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. He is currently a Scholar-Writer in residence and a Visiting Professor at Stanford University.
Most famous for his hit, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” McFerrin’s performance was very interactive. McFerrin performs a cappella with his four octave range, and at the Kennedy Center he invited the audience as a whole to participate in the performance (to understand his style, you can watch this video of him). McFerrin closed his set with an innovative rendition of The Beatles’ “Black Bird”.
McFerrin returned to the stage to join the Let Freedom Ring Choir and soloist Nova Nelson to perform “Down By The Riverside”, during which McFerrin and Nelson teed off with a duet solo. Nelson practically stole the show. The Let Freedom Ring Choir is comprised of Georgetown University students and choir members from around D.C.
President Obama and the first lady were accompanied by Rev. Al Sharpton and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Professor at Georgetown Law, in the presidential box. DC council member Jack Evans and ANC commissioner Bill Starrels were also in attendance.
The President left the hall to loud a cheer of “four more years” from the audience.
Photos: Georgetown University