Atlanta, GA – While President Barack Obama and Congresswoman Maxine Waters sent birthday greetings, Ambassador Andrew Young, Martin Luther King III and Dr. Martin L. King Jr’s sister, Dr. Christine King Farris were among celebrities and dignitaries on hand in Atlanta to acknowledge the 96th birthday of civil rights leader and former King confidant, Dr. Joseph E. Lowery.
The historical evening was made most memorable when OWN’s “Greenleaf” star and singer Keith David; Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne” star and vocalist, Cassandra “Cassi” Davis; and gospel superstar, Yolanda Adams, mesmerized the audience with a stellar musical tribute that encapsulated the life of the well-loved nonagenarian. The Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute (Lowery Institute) hosted the gala which also featured Lowery Institute Change Agents packing the stage to honor the Dr. Lowery with raised fists and taking a knee.
Themed “Grounded in History: Soaring Towards The Future,” the Lowery Institute also awarded movie producer, Will Packer, attorney Angela Rye, and activist Rev. William Barber, for continuing the national dialogue in support of justice and human rights, and keeping the Lowery’s legacies alive as agents of change in their respective fields.
“The evening truly epitomized my dad’s life,” said Dr. Lowery’s daughter and president of the Lowery Institute, Cheryl Lowery. “People from all walks of life made it out to celebrate and producer, Kenneth Green, created an engaging musical experience, masterfully weaving elements of my mother and father’s work as agents of change juxtaposed with the Lowery Institute Change Agents who will continue to keep their legacy alive. He was able to tell their stories using all types of music from hip-hop to the Morehouse College Glee Club.”
Chronicling Dr. Lowery and his late wife, Dr. Evelyn Gibson’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement as well as the initiatives utilized by the Lowery Institute’s Change Agents to carry on the legacy, the tribute featured a medley of musical “moments” spread throughout the night that included topics like “Building A Legacy”, “Amazing Grace,” “A Change is Gonna Come,” “Make Them Hear You,” and “Am I Wrong.”
The opening “moment” of the homage, “They Will Remember You,” showcased a hip-hop violence and injustice performed by Salim Bakarisong of the same name detailing Rev. Lowery’s work to address racism, violence and injustice performed by Salim Bakari, Michael Nero and Sara Davenport. The song’s lyrics and music were composed by Jevares Myric and Ronve O’Daniel.
During Dr. Lowery’s standing-room-only after party, he commented on the current condition of black America telling Roland Martin, host of TV One’s NewsOne Now, “There’s never been a time when we should be more united. Never been a time when we should be more together. I appreciate the fact that so many Black folks are coming together expressing in their own way their determination to move forward.”
Presented by Delta Air Lines and The Coca-Cola Company, the bi-annual birthday celebration raises funds to support the work of the Lowery Institute, a non-profit organization established to ensure the continuity of Dr. Lowery and his late wife, Dr. Evelyn Gibson’s lifelong commitment to non-violent advocacy.
Known as the “Dean” of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Lowery assumed and executed a diverse series of roles over the span of his seven decades: leader, pastor/preacher, servant, father, husband, freedom fighter and advocate. Two major milestones during his journey came in 2009 when he delivered the benediction during President Obama’s Inauguration and later that year when President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his lifelong commitment to the nonviolent struggle for justice, human rights, economic equality, voting rights, peace and human dignity.