The project was spearheaded by Martin Luther King Jr.'s son, Dexter Scott King. He hit up the rapper/producer Kurtis Blow to put it together.
When Dexter King called, Kurtis didn't believe it was him, so he hung up. But King was persistent and eventually convinced Kurtis that he was, in fact, Martin's son, and explained what he had in mind (Kurtis says Dexter sounds just like his dad).
Kurtis wrote the song with Phil Jones and made a lot of phone calls to assemble the performers. He was a respected pioneer in the rap community, so he had no trouble getting the hip-hop heavyweights on board. (Run of Run-DMC used to DJ for Kurtis and was once billed as "Son of Kurtis Blow"). Rappers Melle Mel, Whodini, and The Fat Boys (whom Kurtis produced) joined Run-DMC, as did the singers El DeBarge, Lisa Lisa, Teena Marie, James "J.T." Taylor (from Kool & the Gang), Stephanie Mills, Stacy Lattisaw and Whitney Houston. Along with New Edition, another boy band, the Puerto Rican group Munudo (with Ricky Martin) took part, as did the group Full Force.
The project was produced by Kurtis Blow, who told Songfacts
, "It was a great, great, great song. I just had a ball producing that song."