It is 2009 and there is a black family living in the White House.
During the inauguration ceremonies artists of every hue from every music genre participated in the celebration showing the amazing mosaic that is the United States of America. Yesterday was Easter Sunday and the African-American President and his First Lady celebrated the resurrection of Christ by going to a local church across from the White House that welcomes all races. Things sure have changed since 1939 --
On another brisk Easter Sunday morning in April 1939, contralto Marion Anderson, arguably one of the greatest voices of the 20th Century stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and sang songs celebrating the glory of America. An America that still saw her as separate and unequal because she was black.
Nowadays it sounds glamourous to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial; but that wasn't the initial plan for Marion Anderson's spring concert in Washington, D.C. Although she had been performing for royalty and in major concert halls in Europe, New York and Philadelphia; when her manager tried to book Ms. Anderson at Constitution Hall, the largest venue in segregated Washington at the time, she was rejected by the Daughters of the American Revolution, which owned the hall and prohibited African Americans from performing there. The district's school board also turned her away from singing at a school's auditorium. Ms. Anderson didn't quit...and she didn't take rejection lying down.
With the aid of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the venue was changed to the Lincoln Memorial in front of the statue of the man who stood for freedom and equality. Ms. Anderson performed the open-air concert to a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions. She continued to break barriers for black artists in the United States, notably becoming the first black person, American or otherwise, to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 7, 1955.
Yesterday on Easter Sunday More than 2,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial for a concert honoring the 70th anniversary of opera singer Marian Anderson's historic performance there. The crowd was mixed, the celebration was glorious and the music of freedom and equality rang out in the same songs Marion Anderson sang 70 years earlier. Today is "Mentor Monday" and Marion Anderson's talent, strength and courage should inspires us all to reject those who would reject us because of the color of our skin. Marion Anderson knew who she was and what her rightful place in America should be...so she stood in the place God had ordained; and made people recognize.
(For more information on Marion Anderson, click here)