Yesterday the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. was dedicated and opened to the public with a rousing round of speeches by President Barack Obama, Martin Luther King III, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and others in front of a massive, enthusiastic crowd. But music also played a big part in the historic event.
The power-packed list of performers included Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Shirley Murdock, Miri Ben-Ari, Ledisi and more.
Aretha Franklin sang "Precious Lord"—which she said was one of King's favorite gospel songs—bringing the audience to tears.
Stevie Wonder was joined by Grammy-nominated chanteuse Ledisi to sing his classic rendition of "Happy Birthday."
Earlier in the ceremony, Miri Ben-Ari, the "hip hop violinist" who first rose to fame through her work with Kanye West, performed two original compositions, "Black Tone" and "Bus Passed," which she played with PoemCees.
“I moved to the US all the way from Israel with a dream.. Legacies such as MLK’s inspired me not to give up and to follow my dream," Ben-Ari said when asked about her performance at the dedication. "I feel that my story represents ... the universal message of Martin Luther King, which encompasses freedom, rights and possibilities.”
Earlier this year, Ben-Ari was one of 25 women from various backgrounds honored as "Remarkable Women" in a ceremony hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. Along with musical success alongside Kanye, Jay-Z, Wyclef Jean and others, Ben-Ari has launched an impactful nonprofit organization, Gedenk, Ben-Ari, which promotes youth education about anti-Semitism and the Jewish Holocaust.
“Racism is the reason so many families get torn apart," Ben-Ari said, connecting her work to King's legacy. "I am a third generation to holocaust survivors, and so the universal fight against racism is very personal to me."