I was touched by the stories that Michael Ballam shared as part of his two musical numbers in the middle of the program. I transcribed one of the stories.
"When I was a boy of 6 years of age, the greatest African American singer of all time came to Logan, Utah. Her name was Marian Anderson. The greatest contralto of all time. She didn't need to come to Logan. She sang in Paris and London, Moscow, and sang for Kings, Presidents, and Popes. But she chose to come to the people.
"I loved her recital especially the final number, 'He's got the whole world in His hands.' She sang it in such a way that I believed she knew what she was talking about. I wondered what would a person experience to have that ability to communicate like she did.
"I would find out, twenty years later, when I moved to New York City and had the same agent that Miss Anderson had. His name was Sol Hurok. He told me why she was the way she was. You see it seemed she was to give a historic concert in Constitution Hall, the largest room of assemblage in the Nation's Capital. Mr. Hurok had booked the concert, but just before the concert was to happen, the organization that booked the auditorium determined that it was not fitting for her to perform there because of her heritage.
"She was black. That great race of people stolen from their homes and brought to this nation who survived, more than survived, triumphed those challenges. Sol Hurok was told that that she couldn't perform there.
"He called Marion and she said cancel the recital. He said, But Marian, you are the most famous black person in the world. We need to fight this. You have the power to fight this.
"She said something very important, You can't fight hate with hate. There's only one thing stronger than hate and that's love and my love for this nation will never be injured by a committee's decision about anything.
"He said, Marian, there's 25,000 people with tickets. They need to hear you.
"Well, there was no auditorium with 25,000 seats, but there was the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. And so on an Easter Sunday morning, in the crisp early hours, she came out wearing a heavy coat to the piano to sing a recital.
"There were not 25,000 people. There were 125,000 people. And there was a bouquet of microphones because every radio station in America wanted to know what she would say about this event in her life. She said nothing then or ever until the day she died. But she did more for civil rights by her graciousness than anyone in history. She walked to the piano asked for a chord and sang this.
My country 'tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing; Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims' pride. From ev'ry mountainside Let freedom ring!
My native country, thee, Land of the noble free, They name I love; I love thy rocks and rills, They woods and templed hills. My heart with rapture thrills Like that above.
Let music swell the breeze And ring from all the trees Sweet freedom's song; Let mortal tongues awake; Let all that breathe partake; Let rocks their silence break, The sound prolong.
Our fathers' God, to thee, Author of liberty, To thee we sing; Long may our land be bright With freedom's holy light. Protect us by thy might, Great God, our King!"