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At The D.C. Protests, A 'Lean On Me' Singalong Offered A Moment Of Solace

Protesters in Washington, D.C., hold up their phones during a demonstration outside the White House over the death of George Floyd.
Eric Baradat
/
AFP via Getty Images
Protesters in Washington, D.C., hold up their phones during a demonstration outside the White House over the death of George Floyd.

It had been a long, hot day of protests in Washington, D.C. As dusk descended on the nation's capital on June 3, a man in the crowd held up a microphone. The man, Maryland-based singer Kenny Sway, asked the protestors to kneel — and to turn on their cell phone flashlights.

"I asked them if we can light the city up tonight," Sway says.

And with the lights on thousands of phones beaming bright as far as the eye could see, Kenny Sway lifted his voice with a familiar refrain: "Sometimes in our lives we all have pain, we all have sorrow." Pretty soon, a chorus of thousands joined him in singing the late Bill Withers' beloved hit "Lean on Me." Sway says it sounded like heaven; it was breathtaking.

"It sounded like unity and togetherness," he says. "It sounded like love and pureness of the people. It was one race. It was one moment."

You can watch the video, which D.C. magazine Washingtonian captured, below.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.