Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" from The March On Washington (1963)Above is the full version of the famous "I Have A Dream" speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from The March On Washington on August 28, 1963. And while in the 47 years since MLK made this historic and moving speech things have definitely changed for the better and taken big strides towards racial equality in America (including of course Barack Obama becoming the first black President of the United States just a year ago), we still have not fully realized Dr. King's "dream." Specifically we have not reached the part where he hoped aloud, "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Or when he said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" -- considering that racial profiling is still very much a reality by many police departments across this country.
But as MLK himself once noted, the road toward equality and change is usually an arduous one; one that takes time and calls for much patience and perseverance. And this year's Dr. Martin Luther King Day (observed Monday, Jan 18th) is a perfect time for each of us to stop and consider both how far we have come as a nation since The March On Washington, and what we can personally do to help create positive change toward reaching the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
One person actively doing this is the Grammy-nominated, super-talented Bay Area Afro-Latin percussionist John Santos who, along with his ensemble the John Santos Sextet, will be among the performers this evening (Jan 17th) at the annual East Bay musical tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., In The Name Of Love. Santos will perform on a bill that includes vocalist Ledisi, the (60 member) Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Oakland Children's Community Choir (under the musical direction of Melanie DeMore, with over 200 children from Oakland public elementary schools, backed up by the Oaktown Jazz Workshops), and MC of the night, author, comedian, and radio talk show host Brian Copeland.
Just before soundcheck earlier today I caught up with John Santos by phone (he will be interviewed again on the Amoeblog toward the end of this month & closer to the Grammys) to ask him about this recurring Bay Area MLK tribute event and its importance and significance to him and the other participants.
"The event itself is the eighth annual one and it is always done in the spirit of love and in the spirit of peace," he said. "It's a really positive event; one that strives to put together the connection between civil rights, the labor movement, and just the love...It's a very wide spectrum that brings the entire community together." Santos went on to stress, "For people in my generation, people who saw him growing up, Martin Luther King, Jr. has had a deep affect. He affected me profoundly even though I was only ten years old when I first saw him on TV. He is one of my top ten guys. In fact, I even wrote a song called "Free At Last" inspired by him that appeared on the [1998 Bembe Records] album Machetazo."
Santos and the other performers listed above will be at the Scottish Rite Temple at 1547 Lakeside Drive in Oakland near Lake Merritt this evening (Jan 17th). 7pm doors. $12 general admission. Children under 12 free. Directions & ticket info by clicking here or calling 510-287- 8880. And for an overview of national MLK related events click here.
Santos, of course, is just one of many, many musicians over the years and round the world to have made a musical tribute to the great late Dr. MLK Jr. Others have included UB40 and their 1980 song "King," Ben Harper and his 1994 recording "Like A King" (1996 extended live in Canada version below), U2's 1984 single "Pride (In The Name Of Love)," Common's 2006 "A Dream" featuring Will.i.am (off the Freedom Writers soundtrack), and Stevie Wonder's influential 1981 single "Happy Birthday," which was instrumental in making MLK's birthday an official federal holiday. (Although it was not til 2000 that it has become recognized in all 50 states.)
All of these videos appear below. Additonally there are an endless number of hip-hop records (many recorded during the genre's golden (and more Afrocentric) era, such as Public Enemy's sample of MLK on "Night of the Living Baseheads" off their 1988 Def Jam debut album It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back.
Common (featuring Will.i.am) - "A Dream" (2006)
U2 - "Pride In The Name Of Love" mixed with images of MLK
Ben Harper - "Like a King" (live in Montréal 1996)
UB40 - "King" (Live At Rockpalast 1981)
Stevie Wonder - "Happy Birthday" (1981)