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Local, national figures recall Martin Luther King Jr. with Kennedy Center concert

In a week where she spent much of her time defending racial insensitive comments that Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said about President Barack Obama, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said that she appreciated having an opportunity to reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King who would have turned 81 on Friday.

We needed his spirit tonight," said Norton who was one of the special guest during the 22nd Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King that was sponsored by the D.C. Choral Arts Society at the Kennedy Center Sunday. "In a time of war and the recession we needed to be reminded that times have not always been good but we have come out of it."

In addition to music performed by choirs from the Choral Arts Society of Washington, the Heritage Signature Chorale and the Suitland High School For the Visual and Performing Arts Chamber Choir, veteran journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault -- who was the first African American women to attend the University of Georgia -- was honored at the event.

Shortly after he presented the 2010 Humanitarian Award to Hunter-Gault, John Seigenthaler, a noted journalist who covered the civil rights battles of the 1960s said that "she and others laid the ground work that really is our history."

NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond, another icon of the Civil Rights movement, said too much energy is spent during the King holiday week focusing on the past.

"I hope people do more than celebrate," he said. "They also need to imitate the things that King would have done. The King family is proud of saying it should be a day on and not a day off. ... If we did that we would be a better people."

Debra L. Kraft, executive director of the Choral Arts Society, said the multiracial group of singers and performers tried to do their part during the event to reflect that perfect community that King so often talked about. "It means that the dream is moving forward. We are one people, we can't do it alone."

Kendra Brown, a senior who was part of the Suitland High School choir, said the concert showed that things have gotten a lot better since the 1960s.

"We have crossed over into what Kings dream really was and while things are not perfect in this world events like this shows people where we have come from," Brown said.

-- Hamil R. Harris

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  January 13, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Hamil R. Harris  
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