This Flashback may be more recent, but still considered one of the most memorable days in aXis Productions & Events two decade history. As the City of Kissimmee's exclusive Event Producer for over three years, we feel challenged with booking and coordinating a line up for each annual event that rivals and exceeds the year before, the 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Celebration was no exception. The MLK celebration created an experience of a lifetime for not only the Kissimmee community and staff, but the aXis Pro team and crew as well, having the honor and privilege of working with Motown legend Mary Wilson of The Supremes.
Ms. Wilson is a rare performer that not only challenged the artistic norms of her day, but along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, challenged the commercial and societal norms of the Civil Rights era. From the mid to late 1960's, The Supremes went toe to toe with The Beatles to own the Top 40 Pop Charts, radio airwaves and stages throughout the country and world. Known for crossover tracks that fused gospel with soul and R&B, while creating undeniable harmonies, Ms. Wilson and The Supremes used their voices to rise from the Frederick Douglas housing projects in Detroit, Michigan, to the largest international media and live music platforms across the globe.
It was the week of their first single being released in June of 1963, that Martin Luther King Jr. hosted 150,000 marchers through their hometown Detroit in the 'March to Freedom' in 1963, and The Supremes producer Berry Gordy recorded Mr. King's first offering of his seminal ''I have a Dream' speech. Sadly, they were also part of Mr. King's funeral processional in 1968, and requested to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to help make sense of the tragedy. Through over five decades of performing and celebrating her art, Mary Wilson may have witnessed the best and the worst of the human race, yet through those experiences developed a rare grace and persona.
Once confirming the date and time of the Kissimmee celebration, she learned of the MLK Parade that morning and offered to participate. An overnight flight and early morning didn't slow the 76 year original 'Dreamgirl,' as she joined the Commissioners and community on the parade route through historic Downtown Kissimmee. Following the parade, she kept up the tempo with a Meet & Greet with locals and their families, smiling and hugging dozens for photos, followed by a special edition Facebook Live Interview with Kissimmee Communications Director Melissa Zayas-Moreno.
Then came showtime... An aXis Productions regional favorite and Kissimmee neighbor, The House of Blues Gospel Brunch Band, aka Unity welcomed the crowd with a warm up Gospel set, followed by their annual onstage party of celebratory covers. As the sun beamed on Lakefront Park, the Rock and Roll hall of Famer, Motown Legend... and recent Dancing With The Stars contestant... Mary Wilson and band rocked the City of Kissimmee stage for over an hour serving up her timeless hits like "You Can't Hurry Love," "River Deep, Mountain High," "Someday" as well as lighting up the field with soulful servings of "Satisfaction" and "Last Dance" and leaving the diverse crowd of Osceola County patrons with her personal blessings and the inspiring rendition of "Imagine."
As event producers we work with young and old, from novice upstarts to the planet's most talented performers, artists from all backgrounds, upbringings and faiths. However, from not only a professional, but a personal perspective, Mary Wilson was an awe inspiring artist and individual. When she walked in the room, you saw smiles sweep across faces, and when she engaged with you, she made you feel like you were the only one that mattered. She has seen it all, consumed it, and through that prism of life, exudes a spirit and integrity that not only all artists, but all humans, should aspire to.