Celebrating the Legacy of M.L.K.: Why We Can’t Wait

January 18 marked the 22nd annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration performance at Juilliard. At six o’clock, as the lights dimmed in Paul Hall, a hush went across the room … and I knew that those in the audience would be deeply affected by what they were about to see.

Like most things at Juilliard, every event is carefully planned—from conception to execution, all details are thought through with extreme care and dedication. So it was no surprise that lengthy and late-night meetings were necessary to ensure that the legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was well represented.

This year the Black Student Union, of which I am a member, was given the opportunity to produce the show that topped off the School’s M.L.K. Day events. The committee was made up eight faculty and staff members, and six students. Even though these 14 people were deeply involved in the planning process, numerous individuals also played their part, as was evident with a cast of 33 students.

On one of our evening gatherings in a dorm room, some members of the Black Student Union rediscovered the 10 principles in Dr. King’s nonviolence movement contract and we knew right away that these ideas would be the themes we would incorporate into the production. From there the planning continued with singers working with dancers, drama students participating in dance choreography, non-vocal majors stepping up and allowing their voices to be heard. This M.L.K. celebration was an interdivisional performance, and through it we hoped that we would inspire the audience to embrace the 10 principles to impact the community we live in.

For me, the most inspiring and fun part of the program, which drew its title from Dr. King’s book Why We Can’t Wait, was the final song, “Hold On, Change is Coming.” The entire M.L.K. cast stood on the stage and I was filled with a sense of pride, hope, inspiration, and love for those around me. As we sang, the audience joined in. Seeing them on their feet—clapping, moving, and singing with us—seemed to unite all who were present and brought energy our aspiration to meditate, remember, walk and talk, pray, sacrifice, observe, seek, refrain, strive, and follow, as Dr. King hoped we would.

This M.L.K. celebration was my first and I will certainly never forget it!

Julia Headley, First-Year Dancer