By Anita Jannell-Robertson
Special to Inside The Pew
BATON ROUGE, La. – “I have a dream. So I’d die for it, so much so that I actually live for it.”
Alveda King – niece of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. – was the keynote speaker at an elegant event where I recently had the privilege of serving as guest recording
artist for the evening on March 1 at The Renaissance Hotel in Baton Rouge, La.
The Women’s Help Center hosted its 15th annual fundraising banquet to help support families in the Baton Rouge community. The center has been providing services to more than 30,000 women experiencing unplanned and/or crisis pregnancies for nearly 20 years.
Moved to tears on several occasions throughout the evening, I dedicated my hit song, “Even Me” to Alveda King and anyone else in the audience who had either had an abortion or been accomplice to one. Little did I know King had planned to base much of her presentation on the controversial pro-life topic, including her own heart-penetrating testimony about the perils of abortion and its effects on the family and community.
Alveda C. King serves as a Pastoral Associate and Director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life and Gospel of Life Ministries. She is also a voice for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, a member of the National Black Pro-Life Coalition, and a former college professor and member of the Georgia State House of Representatives.
Beyond sharing about how difficult it was to grow up in the historical shadow of her grandfather (a powerful minister), father (a civil rights activist the Rev. A.D. King) and her uncle (MLK), Alveda King reminded us all to let our light shine and to remember that it wasn’t so little after all. She told us that every time she shared her story, she got a little more healing. She talked about a lyric in my song, “Even Me,” and that gripped my soul – “the exchange at the Cross is mighty to save.”
Was she really referencing my music? It was a life-altering experience, a real game changer because I am a Christian recording artist with fans in several countries on all seven continents. Would I have been able to do that as comfortably if it had not been for the selfless contribution of Dr. King and her family? Probably not.
What about the other unsung heroes? My grandfathers. One was a sharecropper who demanded that my father “leave this place boy, ain’t got nothin’ for ya here.” My father went on to be a military veteran, business man, and a pastor. My other grandfather was a civil rights activist himself, who feared for his life as he hosted and attended secret meetings for black farmers across the South in a time when it was almost a sin for blacks to be farmers in their own right. His daughter, my mother, is one of the strongest women I’ve ever met, beautiful and brilliant. My mother continues to run with seeming ease and integrity the business my father began long before his death.
Taken from my song, “Even Me,” “You will pour water on the soul who is thirsty…flood upon the dry ground. And You’ll pour Your Spirit on the seed of the righteous. Your blessings are flowing now! So I pour my soul out to You! And You pour Your soul out to me!! The exchange at the Cross, Lord, I believe . . . is mighty to save- even me.” On his death bed, my father’s eyes softened as I sang to him. My heart is sore only because I wish he had been there to witness Dr. King mentoring me after the event before both our tables were crowded with fans and well wishers.
In retrospect, Dr. Alveda King’s statement to me is one I will carry in my heart forever, “Anita, there is a new sound of worship in the earth and it’s you. Your music transcends realms.” Realms? Not just races? Not just genders? Not just religions? Realms? Well, amen. I receive that. Do you?
I always wondered what it would be like to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Always wondered what it would be like to be in the presence of such greatness. Well, being with his niece fulfilled that curiosity. Her essence caused us all to erupt in applause after her address. The applause I received after my songs “Even Me” and “Future Generations” were graciously received, but I would have paid to just package that applause and give it to an elder soldier, Dr. King. Getting to know her for a moment, I believe she would have just given it right back.
Applause is a kind gesture, but for those of us who believe we are called by God to affect nations, generations, realms even, applause belongs to the One who called us, who mercifully empowers us on a daily basis to be who we are in Him.
Anita Jarrell-Robertson, a native of Dallas and resident of Baton Rouge, is a contemporary Christian recording artist. Visit her website at www.anitaworships.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find Anita on Facebook and on Twitter @anitaworships.