Bunn freshman invited by King family to rap at MLK Day commemorative service

BUNN, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Bunn High freshman has been invited by the family of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to perform at a service in his honor.

Raymond Barnes, 14, who performs under the name Ray Emmanuel, has gained widespread attention on Instagram for his positive lyrics in his music.

"It's an honor to even be considered," Ray said during an interview Tuesday morning at Bunn High.

Ray, who has more than 100,000 followers, hopes to use his platform and ability to connect to a younger audience to spread the teachings of Dr. King.

"When you're in my position, and you're able to get on the stage or use your platform to reach more people, it kind of engraves it more into their heads," he said.

Ray shared what Dr. King's legacy means to him.

"No matter what odds he was against, he always fought in what he believed in, and that inspires me to do the same, being that he lost his life doing what he had a passion for," Ray said.

In late December, Ray performed in front of a live audience for the first time at the John Wall Family Foundation Holiday Invitation in Raleigh, where he had a chance to meet the Raleigh native and Washington Wizards star.

His dad, Benjamin Barnes, described the invitation from the King family as 'surreal.'

"It allows the flame of Dr. King's legacy not to be under a bushel. It brings it out, lets the light shine," Benjamin Barnes said.

Tuesday would have been Dr. King's 90th birthday; he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at just 39 years old. His death left him unable to see much of the progress that can be traced to his efforts.

"I believe Dr. King knew that he wouldn't be here to see what was going on now, but he would love to see that and smile down upon that," Barnes said.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Commemorative Service is run by The King Center, which was founded in 1968 by Dr. King's wife, Coretta Scott King. Its current CEO is Dr. Bernice A. King, the daughter of Dr. King.

The service will take place in Atlanta on Monday, which is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is titled "King's Vision: Humanity Tied In A Single Garment of Destiny." According to an invitation sent by The King Center to Ray, this year marks the 51st annual birthday celebration program.

Ray will be performing a song during the service. It will cap off an exciting week for the teen, who will also meet with music record executives and release a new single Friday.

Check back here Friday for a link to Ray's newest song.
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