by Sophia Xiong
Graduate Assistant, CCBP

GRAMMY® Award-winning singer and songwriter Tasha Cobbs Leonard brought a top-notch performance to the 33rd Realizing the Dream Concert on Jan. 15. Her powerful voice and message drew a sellout crowd to Moody Music Concert Hall to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This year’s theme is Realizing the Dream through Commitment and Sacrifice. Student representatives Madeline Martin, University of Alabama Student Government Association (SGA) president; Jenna Peitsch, Shelton State Community College Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society president; and Kennedy-MyCal Davis, Stillman College SGA president welcomed the audience and recognized the continuous support from the Tuscaloosa Southern Christian Leadership Conference. They also acknowledged Friday night’s Legacy Award winners and introduced the featured performer.

As the audience started cheering with excitement, Leonard took the stage, saying “I am so excited to be here tonight. I want to shout out to each one of you that you cannot leave this event the same way you came in tonight.”

Her first song, “Burdens Down,” captured the audience with the lyrics,

“That’s when I laid my burdens down, I traded shame in for my crown.
My soul was in the lost-and-found, until I laid my burdens down.”

“I love Tasha Cobbs [Leonard], especially her realness, the spirituality, and the way she loves Christ and how it draws people together,” said Loretta Porter, one of the audience members at the concert.

Many people came to the concert because of Leonard’s powerful voice. “Today I was listening to one of her songs, and I was crying the entire time. She is so anointed by God,” said Kiana Kennanore, who works at The University of Alabama. When speaking about this year’s theme of Realizing the Dream Through Commitment and Sacrifice, Kennanore said, “Her song really touches on how God is so committed to us and how we should be so committed to him and his sacrifice.”

Belinda Jones, a member of Miles Chapel CME Church in Reform County, shared her story with the Realizing the Dream series. “I’ve been coming to the concert for five years,” she said. “My daughter started serving in the Air Force six years ago, and this has become a mom-daughter bonding event for us since then. We came here together every year. This year she is in New Mexico, so she couldn’t make it today, but I want to keep it going. You know, you see all your ancestors who have gone through so much in life, but they committed to making a difference. And there were a lot of sacrifices that came along with that. But there is still a lot of work to be done. I think it’s a great event not just for African Americans, but all people that can take part in and enjoy the celebration. I love to see the diversity of so many different people.”

Samantha Tolbert, an 8th-grade student from Thomasville Middle School and one of the student art award recipients of the Realizing the Dream Middle School Essay and Art Contest, attended the concert with her mother and sister. “I am pretty happy to win the contest. I hope our arts can reach more people,” Tolbert said.

“Dr. King paved the way for us to vote and [said] that for African Americans … we should get out and vote, even if we are not sure who someone is always to be at the polls to guide us,” said Shaleta Washington, Tolbert’s mother. “There are a lot of people who sacrificed their lives for us to vote and to be where we are today.”