Patrick Dailey sings at NMAAM’s “Drum Majors For Justice” Event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Photo by Charlotte Fontaine

By Charlotte Fontaine 

NASHVILLE, TN — The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with its event “A Drum Major for Justice” held in its Roots Theater.

A crowd of local families, phones poised for streaming, celebrated the work and life of Dr. King and shared their passion for the continued daily fight for justice, equality and freedom for all in this country.

The event, titled “A Drum Major For Justice,” included multiple keynote speakers, beat poetry, musical performances, and a panel throughout its four hours where people could freely come and go.

Children sat on the laps of their parents, attentively listening to the operatic stylings of captivating singer and speaker Patrick Dailey.  

“We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt,” Edward Wisdom III said with persuasion at the podium. Exhaustion and hope radiated through the air as he solemnly chuckled, “Making America great again? When was it ever where it is supposed to be?…African Americans are still not free.” There were mixed emotions looming among the audience and stage as the main message was clear: We are not where we were in the 1960s when Dr. King made his famous speech, but education needs to continue and we must be unified in our focus and determination for equal pay, equal opportunities, and fair treatment of one another. 

Cameron Mitchell wiped at his eyebrows and fidgeted with his clothes in what appeared to be frustration as he took the mic for his expressive spoken word poems, where snaps could be heard along the rows of the audience with lines like “Self love in public, self hate in private, what do I get? I need to fight… I have to remember how to dream…[W]hat if we did live like there was a tomorrow?… [W]hat if we helped a white boy have the the strength to withstand suicide and help a Hispanic girl look depression in the face and say ‘today is my day.’” 

Unity, togetherness, and harmony rang out as the crowd joined in with Patrick Dailey to sing and clap along to an a-capella version of “This Little Light of Mine” that had the entire room, regardless of age, profession, what kind of car they drive, if they wear glasses or not, if they brushed their teeth that morning, and most importantly, their skin tone, cheering in complete unison. 

You can find NMAAM’s upcoming events listed on their website (