"You are the source of my strength. You are the strength of my life." These lyrics created a robust refrain around the majestic Meyerson Symphony Center Wednesday night. The 200-voice Project Unity choir began the reverent stanza as they'd done in previous songs throughout the night. Soon the 1000-plus patrons of all faiths, races, and orientations joined in the anthem to create an angelic choir reminiscent of the heavenly host. It was at that moment Project Unity's mission that night was accomplished: Together We Sing.
St. Luke United Methodist Church Pastor, Richie Butler, created a cadre of religious leaders, city officials, and community members of all races to focus on what unites us as a people instead of what divides us. This birthed the "Together We…" movement under the umbrella of Project Unity. Project Unity has been leading efforts to unify Dallas by implementing a themed "Together We" program that addresses the country's efforts to build and sustain community, provide a forum for safe conversations on race relations and improve relations with law enforcement. The organization's annual "Together We Sing" concert is the organization's pinnacle event. This event was created to bring together a diverse selection of vocalists, musicians, and other musical groups to showcase the diversity brought to the world of music.
This mission was accomplished with Wednesday night's tribute to gospel music icon Richard Smallwood backed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Glenn Caldwell. Dallas' most notable singers joined the celebration under the masterful choral direction of Clark Joseph and orchestrations of Roy J Cotton II. Reuben Lael's soul-stirring rendition of "Balm in Gilead" opened the concert and was a resounding crowd favorite. Dr. Myron William's familiar yet masterful "Center of My Joy" highlighted Smallwood's legacy while displaying Williams' range and vocally agility.
WFAA senior reporter Demond Fernandez and psychiatrist Dr. Tina Ali Mohammad united vocally on Ethan Kent's "We Are One." Kent's lyrics, "We all breathe air in our lungs, we all bleed red blood," highlighted the through line of the night…." Together We." The gritty and throaty "Trust Me" executed by former Kirk Frankiln and the Family lead singer Pastor Darrell Blair transported the anticipatory audience directly to the church's doors.
Picking up the torch from Pastor Blair was Grammy award winner Tamela Mann. Often known for her work with Tyler Perry, Mann set the concert hall ablaze with her powerful interpretation of Smallwood's classic "I Love the Lord." While the late Whitney Houston made the song famous in the movie "The Preachers Wife," actress and singer Mann put her masterful stamp on the gorgeous ballad. Mann's delivery left the participatory crowd on their feet and shouting for joy.
Although the lack of non-black singers was widely apparent, Project Unity still succeeded in continuing to carry the torch to unify the city of Dallas. Dallas needs more organizations like this one to put action to the complaints often heard. Bravo.