Stevie Wonder "Advancing the Dream"

Stevie Wonder “Advancing the Dream”

*Reverend Al Sharpton and MSNBC presented “Advancing the Dream: Live from The Apollo” on Friday, September 6th at 8pm ET.

The live, star-studded, two-hour television event included interviews and discussions with a diverse group of successful individuals including Stevie Wonder, Magic Johnson, Condoleezza Rice, Tyler Perry, Lisa Price, Sallie Krawcheck, Cory Booker, and Ron Blaylock.

Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater was the perfect setting. Reverend Sharpton and his guests looked back at the struggles of the past, celebrated current achievements and looked forward to the challenges ahead.

“Advancing the Dream” is an initiative led by Reverend Al Sharpton to highlight efforts in communities across America to expand fairness, equality and opportunity. The initiative was launched at the Essence Festival, continued in Washington DC for the anniversary of the March on August 23, and concluded at the Apollo.

Sponsored by the University of Phoenix, the guests ranged from political and business community leaders to performers and athletes that delved into topics including education, worker’s rights, income inequality, the opportunity gap and other aspects of the modern day civil rights movement.

Earvin 'Magic' Johnson

Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson

Some highlights: After becoming a basketball star, one day traveling to the south on the road with his father Magic Johnson was about to respond to a Jim Crow-ish incident, but his father stopped him. “Dad said, ‘he just don’t know no better…we have to understand [some people] are so used to doing things a certain way’…” He said he learned something from that. “I grew up poor, but I didn’t have poor dreams.”

Stevie Wonder: Advocating more black-owned media venues he said, “You can’t know the story if you don’t hear the story.” Regarding race he said, “I’ve never seen, so I’ve never understood what blind really meant…it seems to me people who are prejudiced based on one’s color or ethnicity, it seems like they have a sickness! Get over it! Get it together…my dreams could never be dashed by someone’s illness! I say this to all Americans of all ethnicities – don’t let the incredible potential of us being truly the greatest nation of the world be dashed by your sickness…don’t do it!”

Sallie Krawcheck: “[Leaders should] embrace a true meritocracy where people get ahead because of their hard work not because of the color of their skin or their gender.”

Cory Booker: “We need to have the courage to tell the truth…having the honest conversation. We are a country right now that is far more comfortable spending hundreds of billions of dollars for failure…prisons, hospitals…you name it…than investing that money in what actually works. We all do better when we all do better.”

Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice: Growing up in Birmingham (“Bombingham” as she says), she knew one of the girls killed in the Birmingham church bombing. She recalled her family leaving her grandparents’ home one night and when they heard an explosion that sounded like a bomb her father said he was going to the police, and her mother said “Why?” they’re probably the ones who set it off.”

Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry: “My greatest thing to overcome was my mind…I had to get my mind to catch up with the dream [against what everyone around me was saying]…this is it…this is your life…this is all you will ever be…you will never be any higher than this…”

It was a great inspiring presentation with the inimitable Stevie Wonder singing an altered version of “We Shall Overcome” substituted with “We have overcome today.”

For a slide show of the event, check out theGrio.

Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” Contact e-mail: [email protected]  (213) 220-8101