Just before sunset on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke with musician Ben Branch in the courtyard of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Branch asked Dr. King what to play at a meeting planned later that evening. Dr. King replied, “You should play Take My Hand, Precious Lord. Play it like you never played it before in your life. Play it real pretty.” The lyrics “lead me on to the light… lead me home” proved prophetic, as Dr. King was assassinated that night. Five days later, Mahalia Jackson performed this same hymn, one of Dr. King’s favorites, at his funeral in Atlanta.
Our 15th annual MLK concert reflects the message that a seemingly small gesture – the taking of one’s hand, for example – can lead to enormous change. Small gestures bring us together, unite us, and help us build movements, just as Dr. King’s gestures of love, compassion, tolerance, and hope led to a civil rights movement that transformed the world.