Written by | Ray Cornelius
The 92nd Birthday Celebration for the Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery was held last night in Atlanta’s Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College.
The three-hour theatrical and musical production was entitled, “I’ve Known Rivers” and featured a bevy of invited celebrity guests and presenters. The show was initially supposed to be hosted by comedian Steve Harvey, who fell ill hours before the program but was quickly replaced by Atlanta’s own Chris Tucker.
The show opened with a tribute to Lowery’s late wife, Mrs. Evelyn Lowery, who passed away on September 26. Broadway director Kenny Leon, actress Cassie Davis and fashion maven Fonzworth Bentley paid homage to the civil rights heroine who founded of the SCLC/Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now, Inc. It was the sister organization to her husband’s SCLC organization and provided support through education mentoring programs, HIV-AIDS awareness and scholarships for high school students.
The show continued with “ A Legendary Reading” from Malcolm Jamal-Warner, Rolonda Watts, Angela Robinson and Terri J. Vaughn followed by a jazzy version of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” featuring Kathleen Bertrand.
Students from the Atlanta University Center (Spelman, Morehouse and Clark-Atlanta University) saluted Rev. Lowery by recounting pivotal moments throughout his career including his role in helping to abolish apartheid in South Africa and ultimately assisting with the release of Nelson Mandela.
The pinnacle of the evening was the presentation of the inaugural Joseph E. Lowery Agent of Change Award to Tyler Perry. As previously reported, Perry was being honored for overcoming insurmountable odds as well as his generous support of children’s charities and efforts to end homelessness. For Perry, the award solidifies the work he feels he’s been called to do through filmmaking and entertainment.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do was inspire, uplift and encourage and to have this award around my neck just makes me want to run on a little bit further.”
There was also a special moment in the program that recognized the “four little girls” who were killed during the Birmingham church bombing 50 years ago. Just last month, Lowery and Elder Bernice King were honored by Mayor William Bell during the city’s anniversary events.
The evening continued with spirit-filled performances by opera singer Pamela Dillard, vocalists Patty Mack and Sara Von Zine. Actor-singer Desmond Sean wowed the audience with his rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” while actress-singer Demetria McKinney performed a traditional gospel selection featuring the Spelman and Morehouse College Glee Clubs.
Academy-Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx closed out the show with a salute to Dr. Lowery. “I want to do whatever I can to make sure that I shine as much light as I can on your life as you’ve shined so much light on all of our lives,” said the multi-talented comedian.
Foxx then talked about his recent dinner with legendary actor and activist Harry Belafonte and how it inspired him to become more vocal regarding social injustice and human rights issues.
The night ended with a cake presentation and everyone singing happy birthday to Reverend Lowery.
Check out all the photos below:
Kenny Leon, Cassie Davis and Fonzworth Bentley paying tribute to Mrs. Evelyn Lowery
Angela Robinson, Fonzworth Bentley, Terri J. Vaughn, Rolonda Watts and Malcolm Jamal-Warner
Jazz vocalist Kathleen Bertrand singing Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready”
Actors Angela Robinson, Brad James and Crystal Fox
AUC students recounting key moments in Lowery’s career
Tyler Perry receiving the Agent of Change Award
A moving tribute to the “Four Little Girls”
Opera singer Pamela Dillard performing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”
Desmond Sean singing Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”
Vocalist Sara Von Zine singing “Lord Don’t Move My Mountains”
Actress-singer Demetria McKinney performing with the Spelman and Morehouse College Glee Glubs
Chris Tucker escorting Dr. Lowery along with Jamie Foxx
Foxx saluting Dr. Lowery
Photo Credits: Megan Alodie for RayCornelius.com