Hurricane Irene may have postponed the formal Sunday morning dedication ceremony for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and cancelled several events surrounding the celebration, but that did not put a damper of the magnificent celebration that took place last Friday Evening at Constitution Hall. MLK: A Monumental Life, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.’s official celebratory kick-off was a large scale production which incorporated a vast array of artistic mediums: song, dance and drama, all to celebrate the rich,enormous legacy of Dr. King. Formal in attire, the brigthtest and best of society were cloaked in their most elegant gowns and tuxedos, complete with white-tie. The presentation was conceived by the current General President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., *Herman “Skip” Mason while on a flight to South Africa. “It just made plain sense that during the dedication weekend that his story was told in some dramatic and musical form.” Mason said.
The presentation featured some of the nation’s greatest musical and theatrical talents. Celebrity actors, actresses, personalities and musicians who made guest appearances included Avery Brooks, Cassi Davis, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jasmine Guy, Hill Harper, Terrence Howard, Stu James, Kenny Lattimore, Roland Martin, Keisha Knight Pulliam, Phylicia Rashad, Della Reese, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Tim Reid, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Victoria Rowell, Bern Nadette Stanis, Derek “Fonsworth Bentley” Watkins, Mary Wilson. At the core of the dramatic skits was a talented ensemble of young actors, actresses and singers cast from Atlanta. Kenneth Green served as producer and director and did an exceptional job in blending both the theatrical and musical components of the presentation.
CHECK PHOTOS FROM THE STAR-STUDDED EVENT BY WASHINGTON, D.C. BASED CELEBRITY PHOTOGRAPHER: DANA MORGAN.
Music by outstanding artists further punctuated the poignant moments in the dramatic presentations. It was not too long ago, that the famous contralto Marian Anderson was denied to right to sing in Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution. To be present for such an occasion to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. in that very place, to listen to mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves accompanied by pianist Joseph Joubert sing the “Ave Maria” by Schubert was one of many poignant moments of the presentation. Other musical renderings followed by Lady Tramaine Hawkins whos rendering of “Changed” caused the house to need a moment to regroup, Lalah Hathaway’s velvelty voice which blanked the audience with a trance of beautiful serenity and Marvin Winans’ performance of “A Man of Change” exemplified the very reason we were all assembled. Standout moments included the charming dialogue between Martin and Coretta, portrayed by Hill Harper and Victoria Rowell. Rowell in particular, brought a sense of charm to the role and the dialogue balanced with Harper’s poised demeanor gave the audience a glimpse into the historic courtship between the beloved couple. Phylicia Rashad perhaps gave the most moving account as she dramaticized the moment that Coretta Scott King received the news that Dr. King had been assasinated. As she spoke, the tears began to swell in her eyes and her voice gave great command to the emotion of such news. And one could not help but fight back tears during the dramatic interpretation of the kiling of the four little girls killed during the 1963 Birmingham church bombing. Four interpretive dancers moved gracefully about the stage as Sweet Honey and the Rock performed “We Are” with the energy and childlike innocence of youth, yet the deep spiritual depth of despair. An important presence was that of the Morehouse Glee Club, which reflected the great prominence of Morehouse College in King’s academic development. The creative evening of theater and song was monumental and used every creative resource to pay tribute to a great King indeed.
*The DC Performing Arts Examiner, Patrick D. McCoy was invited by General President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., “Skip” Mason to assemble and conduct a select choral ensemble to perform during the dramatic presentation. The choir, composed of members of the Takoma Park Baptist Church choirs and guest singers sang with Sunday’s Best Winner Y’anna Crawley, joined by actor Clifton Davis in the reinactment of the church services at Ebenezer and Dexter Ave. churches. Many thanks to David Charles Griffiths, Minister of Music at 19th Street Baptist Church, who served as assistant director and the singers for joining in this special presentation.