Nashvillians and others came by the thousands to the Music City Center to hear from Martin Luther King, III on the federal holiday in honor of the birth of his father, legendary Civil and Human Rights leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK). Although Monday, January 18 was the coldest day of the winter so far, the heart-warming recollections of the eldest son of the elder King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, turned the event in to an extended family affair by including his wife and their seven-year-old daughter, along with long-time family friend Dick Gregory.
The program began with music, including the national anthem, by the Jimmy Church Band, followed by an audience rendition of the Negro National Anthem “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” led by XMSirius radio personality and program moderator Rev. Mark Thompson. Washingtonian Thompson riffed on the last names of one of D.C.’s recent mayors (Marion Barry) sharing the last name with current Nashville mayor Barry in introducing her.
Mayor Megan Barry made an inspiring presentation, first recalling the most memorable elements of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington in 1963. She then took the step of describing a lesser known, but poignant portion of the complete address in which King inquired about the treatment of the stranger encountered by the man known as the Good Samaritan. She explored the dilemma between asking oneself “What might happen to me if I help him?” versus “What might not happen if I don’t help out?” She emphasized that what we as the beloved community must do is to act to help.
Dick Gregory spoke at length about the need to be aware of the continuing existence of the effects of white supremacy and white privilege especially as expressed through the powers that be that supersede even governments and presidents. He gave specific examples of events and effects on communities that can be traced to intervention.
Martin, “don’t call me Marty,” King shared memories from his childhood about family quality time spent with his dad MLK, his teaching him to swim, play basketball and such, eschewing football, he said, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the violence. He spoke eloquently to the effects of widespread violence in television, in film, and in video games, and how it impacts and informs the culture of gun violence and death in our communities.
Following a lengthy question and answer session, Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton wrapped up the elements in play, essentially interpreting the challenges we as a people face in light of the urgent question: “Where do we go from here in 2016?”
To encourage the attendees to take action, Yolanda Renee King, the seven-year-old granddaughter of MLK led a chant: “Spread the word… Have you heard?… All across the nation… We are going to be a great generation!”
Following the event, a well-attended Meet and Greet was held at Carol Ann’s Restaurant at 407 Murfreesboro Road, where everyone enjoyed a full soul food meal, augmented by a wide variety of scrumptious hors d’oeuvres.