What is a performer anyway?

In 2017, Rolling Stone published its own “25 Under 25” list shining the spotlight on “young musicians, actors, [and] activists changing the world.”

Rolling Stone successfully equated how musicians, actors and activists make waves in cultural conversations. If musicians and actors are performers, wouldn’t an activist be a performer as well? So, how should we really be defining what a “performer” is and isn’t?

Typical performers tell stories for onlookers to question, criticize and admire. Arguably, activists do the same thing. If making a story resonate with audience members makes for a performer, then Martin Luther King Jr. is the most influential performer of all time.

If you say the names “Michael Jackson” and “Elvis Presley,” every American knows who’s being discussed. MJ had a story to tell with every song and dance move. Elvis had hips that did all the talking for him.

Martin Luther King was the only one who could’ve brought the nonviolent civil rights movement’s story to its nobility. King had a performer-mentality bubbling inside him, giving him the power to share a story no other could. He’s the most influential performer because he told the story so many African Americans wanted to share but couldn’t.

Right away you know what the words “I have a dream” symbolize. Those four words proclaim the story of ending 400 years of slavery, discrimination, racism and prejudice in America.

With pure emotion, bravery, insistence and kindness, King convinced America of the reality of hatred. He spoke of slaves beaten, bruised and worked to death every day just because of the color of their skin. Regular people beaten, bruised and insulted every day at school, work and on the streets just because of the color of their skin.

King had a dream of waking up America from a heinous nightmare. He couldn’t have accomplished all he did and inspire so many people without his triumphant storytelling — his performances.

He was successful because his message roared through the crowds and into everyone’s heart.

Rolling Stone was right; performers can and do change the world. Martin Luther King Jr. is just the most influential example.