By Matt Shiffler, written and photographed for Cleveland.com and the Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Below-zero wind chill and heavy snow weren’t enough to keep a sold-out crowd from attending the 42nd Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Sunday at Playhouse Square.
The program showcased impressive performances by the Contemporary Youth Orchestra and Tri-C’s T.O.P Orchestra, impassioned student speeches and also honored the Humanitarian Scholarship recipients.
One key member of the celebration, 11-time Grammy winner and revered gospel singer Shirley Caesar, almost missed the remembrance because of cancelled flight. Arriving in Cleveland and missing her luggage, Caesar took the stage in a gray jumpsuit, delivering her mesmerizing vocals with a stage presence that showed the crowd why she is among the best-known gospel singers in the world.
Caesar’s performance wasn’t the only moving and memorable part of the show. Students Chandra Bastola of Nepal and Mohamed Ag Almahamoud of West Africa delivered speeches that made the audience cheer on several occasions.
Bastola explained that the only way to stop the hate of an individual is to show that person love. She also said, “In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King said ‘I have a dream.’ Here I am in 2019, I too, have a dream. I dream that one day all of the women in Nepal and women all around the world will be treated equally and have the opportunity to persevere.”
During Almahamoud’s speech, he said he was asked why he wasted so much of his time with helping people that he doesn’t even know. His answer stemmed from Bob Marley. Two days after Marley was shot by a gunman, Marley still sang on stage and was asked about why he still performed. Marley replied, “The people who are trying to make this world worse are taking no days off, how can I?” Almahamoud then asked the audience, “How can we all light up in the darkness in this world?”