August 25

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington and his memorable “I Have a Dream” speech, Willard Intercontinental and the King Centre jointly hosted the first ever Gospel brunch (under the Global Freedom Festival) featuring the widely acclaimed opera singer Denyce Graves. It was in his suite at the Willard Intercontinental on the night of August 27, 1963 (a day before the March on Washington civil rights rally) that Noble laureate Dr Martin Luther King put the finishing touches to his brilliant “I Have a Dream” speech. It was the same speech that galvanized over 250,000 civil rights marchers who had gathered at the Lincoln Memorial on the fateful day of August 28, 1963.

The Gospel brunch started at 11:30 AM on August 25, 2013 in the Grand Ballroom area of Willard Intercontinental. It featured a mesmerizing performance of some of the spiritual selections and Gospel by Ms. Denyce Graves, and a Felcia Kessek-Crawley directed Voices of Worship musical choir. The Gospel section of the brunch mainly had songs that were the personal favorites of Martin Luther King. The event also included an elegant wine reception and an elaborate, amazing southern style brunch buffet prepared by the executive chef of Willard Intercontinental, Luc Dendievel. All the participants were handed a commemorative Martin Luther King souvenir too.

The members of the great Dr Martin Luther King’s immediate family were also in attendance in this Global Freedom Festival event. Revered Dr Bernice King (50), the youngest child of Dr Martin Luther King joked that she was merely 5 months old when Dr King delivered that moving speech and that she may have been asleep the entire time!

Furthermore, the program included a moving rendition of the “Battle hymn of the Republic” written by the great poet Julia Ward Howe and a reading of the Dr King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Thereafter, a silent auction sponsored by the Intercontinental Hotels and Resorts, was held in benefit of the Atlanta King Foundation.

Rewind to August 1963, traditional African-American spirituals and gospel songs were sung at that time for alleviating the fear in the hearts of civil rights activists. They had gathered peacefully to show their dissent at the existing prejudices and segregations in the fields of education, voting, public accommodations and housing at that time.

At the Gospel Brunch, Andrew Young (81), a former United States Ambassador to the UN (United Nations) and a ‘lieutenant’ in the Martin Luther King’s SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) organization, led the gathered audience in the rendition of civil rights spiritual song, “Woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom.”