It was like a family reunion in some ways, Robert Jordan said.
"I’ve been coming to this for three or four years now," he said, "a family ritual. To come back here, see people I know, and to celebrate the life of Dr. King."
Jordan lives in Woodbridge now, but he grew up in Arlington, and he came back for the county’s 33rd annual tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. He and some 700 others crowded into the Thomas Jefferson Community Theater Sunday night for a program that included dancers, a gospel choir, and written tributes from Arlington students.
King is 33 years gone, but the night began with his voice. As audience members filled the theater, recorded speeches played quietly over the sound system. As friends and neighbors greeted one another, King’s famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Monument wafted through the air.
The night was a mix of tributes loud and soft, young and old, and music, dance and words. Dancers from the District’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts performed to gospel songs, TODAH-Hands in Ministry choreographed sign language for inspirational songs, and the evening was capped off with a performance by the Morgan State University Choir.
That concert drew Tim Coburn, 23, from 99.5’s Morning Mess, and Steve Wilson, 29, a member of the Air Force’s Singing Sergeants, first timers at the Arlington event.
"I went to the Martin Luther King tribute at the Kennedy Center. As a professional musician, I’m going to concerts year-round," so he was especially excited about the Morgan State choir, he said.
Regina Hicks, an Alexandria resident, was also at the Arlington tribute to King for the first time, and was especially pleased with essays read by Arlington students, winners of the county’s essay contest in tribute to King.
"I was really impressed with the youngsters," Hicks said. "They presented themselves very well."