Category: Videos

Meet Dawn Porter, Filmmaker Behind Netflix Documentary Series “Bobby Kennedy For President”

<p>Dawn Porter</p>
Filmmaker Dawn Porter (Chance Yeh/Getty Images)

On April 4, 1968, Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy took to the stage in Indianapolis, Indiana to tell the mostly Black crowd that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated.

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country,” Kennedy said that evening. “Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

Two months later, Kennedy was killed — shot to death in Los Angeles, moments after winning California’s Democratic presidential primary.

While Kennedy has been lionized as the rare politician who could bring together working-class whites, African-Americans, and Latinx voters, his transformation from being openly suspicious of those in the civil rights movements to being one of its biggest supporters is one of the most interesting components of filmmaker Dawn Porter’s last project, Bobby Kennedy For President. 

In the four-part Netflix documentary series, Porter uses archival footage and interviews with people like Harry Belafonte, activist Dolores Huerta, and Congressman John Lewis to chronicle Kennedy’s rise through the ranks to become one of the most beloved figures in American history, particularly for scores of Black people.

“He’s a really fascinating historical figure,” Porter tells ESSENCE. “I’ve always been interested in politics. Career-wise, a lot of my films deal with social justice, and I felt like this one dealt with social justice from a different perspective.”

According to Porter — who has covered topics like abortion, the criminal justice system, and fatherhood in her work — Kennedy’s influence on many prominent African-Americans, like former Attorney General Eric Holder, prompted her to delve deeper into his life.

“In our initial research into the story, when I saw what a difference civil rights leaders made in his life, it meant that made a difference in all of our lives and I wanted to add in their voices to this history,” she says. “He’s a very compelling figure and it was just a rich opportunity to dig into the archives as a filmmaker, but to also tell the story through a different lens.”

While many look to Kennedy’s life and ability to bring people together as an example of the type of coalition they’d like to build in the future, Porter says his life can teach us a valuable lesson right now about extending people grace and room to grow.

“We’re awfully quick these days to label people and keep them in a box and I think that that doesn’t serve any of us well,” Porter explains. “All of us are complicated, but if we’re smart and mature we all evolve. I think what you see with Bobby Kennedy is his evolution, but you have to understand the beginning to deeply appreciate the end.”

Under his leadership at the Justice Department, Kennedy authorized the surveillance of African-American leaders like Dr. King, who was considered a threat to the nation. However, as he forged relationships with people in the movement like Belafonte, Huerta, and writer James Baldwin, his perspectives began to shift. Soon, Kennedy would send federal marshals to Mississippi to protect the Freedom Riders, and later, would commit himself to healing America’s racial divisions. Kennedy’s shift in his commitment to racial justice made Porter even more enthralled by his life.

“I appreciated the end so much when I understood that history,” she says. “The fact that the man who authorized the wiretap of Martin Luther King, Jr. would then break Cesar Chavez‘s fast, would march with Dolores Huerta during the grape strikes and would announce Martin Luther King’s death to a largely Black audience in Indianapolis. Those are seminal moments in our history, but I think they’re made even richer and deeper and more meaningful because that’s not where he began.”

Many wonder what America would have looked like had Kennedy survived and gone on to the White House. “Had Kennedy lived we wouldn’t have had Nixon, Watergate, Bush, or Trump,” Huerta said in a recent interview. “Kennedy was a different kind of individual. He believed in bringing people together. He was not divisive, he was a uniter.”

For Porter, the nation’s current political climate makes it the perfect time to reflect on Kennedy’s life. “Bobby Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr. were always really, really important in marginalized communities, in the African-American community,” she told PBS. “And I thought what a great time to explore that legacy, at a time when politics feels so dark and when so many people… are so impacted by the political discourse of today.”

Now that Porter has tackled Kennedy’s complex life in Bobby Kennedy For President, she’s hoping to reclaim a little of her time and work on a project about yet another impactful politician, California Congresswoman Maxine Waters. As she explores her next potential subject, Porter says she just appreciates the opportunity to make films that matter, and support other Black folks in the business, too.

“I’m just grateful the offers are coming and the projects are coming and I’m also interested in sharing that love,” she tells ESSENCE. “As Ava DuVernay always says, ‘It’s no fun being the only.”’ It’s important that there are many of us with many visions because there’s not one way to be Black.”

Source: https://www.essence.com/entertainment/dawn-porter-black-woman-netflix-bobby-kennedy-president

Activist and Educator Angela Davis’ Papers Acquired by Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library (VIDEO)

Detail photos show materials from the papers of Angela Davis that are now housed at the Schlesinger Library. (Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer)

by Colleen Walsh via news.harvard.edu

For almost 60 years Angela Davis has been for many an iconic face of feminism and counterculture activism in America. Now her life in letters and images will be housed at Harvard University.

Radcliffe College‘s Schlesinger Library has acquired Davis’ archive, a trove of documents, letters, papers, photos, and more that trace her evolution as an activist, author, educator, and scholar. The papers were secured with support from Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research.

The FBI wanted poster for Davis (Courtesy Schlesinger Library)

“My papers reflect 50 years of involvement in activist and scholarly collaborations seeking to expand the reach of justice in the world,” Davis said in a statement. “I am very happy that at the Schlesinger Library they will join those of June Jordan, Patricia Williams, Pat Parker, and so many other women who have been advocates of social transformation.”

Jane Kamensky, Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library, sees the collection yielding “prize-winning books for decades as people reckon with this legacy and put [Davis] in conversation with other collections here and elsewhere.”

When looking for new material, Kamensky said the library seeks collections “that will change the way that fields know what they know,” adding that she expects the Davis archive to inspire and inform scholars across a range of disciplines.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. said that he’s followed Davis’ life and work ever since spotting a “Free Angela” poster on the wall at his Yale dorm. Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor, has worked to increase the archival presence of African-Americans who have made major contributions to U.S. society, politics, and culture. He called the Davis papers “a marvelous coup for Harvard.”

“She’s of enormous importance to the history of political thought and political activism of left-wing or progressive politics and the history of race and gender in the United States since the mid-’60s,” said Gates, who directs the Hutchins Center. “No one has a more important role, and now scholars will be able to study the arc of her thinking, the way it evolved and its depth, by having access to her papers.”

The acquisition is in keeping with the library’s efforts to ensure its collections represent a broad range of life experiences. In 2013 and 2014 an internal committee developed a diverse wish list, “and a foundational thinker and activist like Angela Davis was very naturally at the top,” said Kamensky.

Kenvi Phillips, hired as the library’s first curator for race and ethnicity in 2016, met with Davis in Oakland last year to collect the papers with help from two archivists. Together they packed 151 boxes of material gathered from a storage site, an office, and Davis’ home. Continue reading “Activist and Educator Angela Davis’ Papers Acquired by Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library (VIDEO)”

Undocumented Immigrant Mamoudou Gassama, 22, Saves Child Dangling From Balcony in France, Becomes National Hero (VIDEO)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

The video footage is astounding: in a matter of seconds, young hero Mamoudou Gassama, scales four stories of a Paris apartment building to rescue a child dangling from a balcony.

Hero Mamoudou Gassama (photo via nypost.com)

According to washingtonpost.com, Gassama, a 22 year-old undocumented immigrant from Mali, is being feted as a French national hero despite having been in France for less than six months. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced that the city would support his effort to stay in France, and President Emmanuel Macron welcomed him to the Élysée Palace on Monday. According to Newsweek, Macron granted Gassama full French citizenship, and Gassama has also been offered a job as a firefighter in the French capital.

At a moment when life is becoming increasingly difficult for immigrants in France, Gassama — christened “Le Spider-Man” on French social media — has become an overnight celebrity after his Saturday night heroics.

“He explained to me that he arrived from Mali several months ago, dreaming of building his life here,” Hidalgo said via Twitter. “I told him that his heroic gesture is an example for all citizens.”

Gassama recounted the chain of events on Saturday night to France’s Le Parisien newspaper. Around 8 p.m., he was with his girlfriend in Paris’s 18th arrondissement, or district. As he was walking down Marx-Dormoy street, he saw a crowd gathered below a building, with people screaming and pointing up. Then he saw the boy, who authorities later said was 4.

“I climbed up to save him, voilà,” Gassama told Le Parisien. “I did it because it was a kid. I love children very much. I didn’t think about the floors,” he said, referring to the building he scaled. “I didn’t think about the risk.”

For many, the question was how the 4-year-old boy had managed to climb over the balcony’s railing in the first place. The child’s mother was not in Paris at the time, and his father, who had apparently left the boy home alone, was questioned by authorities, a judicial source told Agence France-Presse.

Documentary Film “Grabbing Back” Aims to Chronicle the Journeys of Black Women Running for U.S. Congress in 2018

Candidates Tamara Harris, Stephany Rose Spaulding and Tanzie Youngblood (photo via kickstarter.com)

by Lesa Lakin (@lesalakin)

Black women wanting to enact positive change is nothing new. But “Grabbing Back” is a particularly inspiring project given the recent uptick in African-American women’s political ambitions. Black women are showing up — exemplified when the nation witnessed the astounding turnout and overwhelming support of 98 percent of black female voters for Democrat Doug Jones, turning Alabama’s senate seat blue for the first time in twenty five years. Inspired by this historic move, filmmakers Pamela French, Shareen Anderson and Wendy Missan have turned their lens toward the powerful movement of African American women across the nation wanting to make a difference and a run for office.

This documentary is timely given the recently reported record number of black women running for office in Alabama and Stacey Abramshistoric Georgia Democratic Primary win for governor.

According to the Washington Post, nineteen black women hold seats in Congress, including one in the Senate. An additional two black women are non-voting delegates in the House. Three black women hold statewide offices, including lieutenant governors in Kentucky and New Jersey. And in 2017, voters in New Orleans and Charlotte made history by electing black women as mayor. A film chronicling the journey of African American women seeking office is certain to inspire.

“Grabbing Back” shadows Tanzie Youngblood, Tamara Harris and Rev. Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding, three determined first-time congressional candidates from New Jersey and Colorado. Youngblood, a retired schoolteacher and widow, was motivated, like many women running today, by the present-day political climate and Hillary Clinton’s defeat. “With what’s going on now, I have to get involved,” Youngblood said. “People say things need to be done. I’m actually doing something.” Since she got off the sidelines and announced her congressional bid for New Jersey’s 2nd District, Youngblood has gained some serious recognition both from her constituents and the media; Tanzie was one of the “Avengers” on the Time Magazine’s January 2018 cover story. And in a recent Newsweek article, Youngblood explains one of her biggest challenges is getting her own party’s support, “I’ve been very loyal to this party, but I don’t feel the loyalty back. They don’t see the value in a candidate like me,” Youngblood said.

Like Youngblood, Tamara Harris who is running in New Jersey’s 11th district, says she “became severely concerned for our democracy. What I realized was that if I didn’t step up…the foundations that underpin the advocacy that I care about so much would be under attack and greatly at risk.” Harris brings a tremendous wealth of attributes to her candidacy as a children’s and family advocate and former businesswoman with international finance experience.

Rev. Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding sees her run for office as yet another call to service. As an educator, a person of faith, and an active member of the community, Spaulding hopes to genuinely represent and serve her constituency to bring inclusion, innovation, and a voice to each person in Colorado’s Congressional District 5. The electrifying International Women’s March drew huge numbers of people and convinced her CO5 deserves a new, fresh representative who will be responsive to the unique needs and concerns of the people.

In addition to the three main candidates, “Grabbing Back” will season the film series with three other formidable women also seeking a seat at the table: Navy Veteran Pam Keith from Florida’s 18th District; Councilor Ayanna Pressley (who was first elected to the Boston City Council in 2009 and is the first woman of color ever elected to the Council) and Shion Fenty, a Republican from Virginia’s 4th District. The filmmakers feel that the story wouldn’t be fairly told without crossing the aisle to include a Republican candidate. Shion believes, “The 4th District deserves a representative in Washington who will fight to empower our communities and our families to chart their own path in achieving the lives they’ve envisioned for their families. That is why I am running for Congress.”

You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas. – Shirley Chisholm

It is fitting and not lost on the filmmakers that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Shirley Chisholm’s election to the House in 1968 as an “Unbought and Unbossed” reformer from Brooklyn. She was the first black woman elected to the United States Congress and she represented New York’s 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1968 to 1983. In 1972, she announced her groundbreaking campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. As the first black woman to run for president for a major political party, Chisholm was making history. While her bid for the top job at the White House was short-lived, the symbolism of her run is as powerful today as it was then. She was a pioneer for her generation, a woman of many firsts: the first African American Congresswoman, the first African American to run for President, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

For more information about the project (and to see a great trailer for “Grabbing Back”) click here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/grabbingback/grabbing-back-a-feature-documentary-film

This is a meaningful and inspiring project. We are looking forward to seeing it.

“Betty: They Say I’m Different” Documentary About Funk Music Pioneer Betty Davis to Premiere at Red Bull Music Festival in NY

The trailblazing funk singer, bandleader and producer Betty Davis dropped out of public for decades. A new documentary, “Betty: They Say I’m Different,” tells her story. (Credit: Robert Brenner)

For a few short years in the 1970s, no one made funk as raw as Betty Davis did. She sang bluntly about sex on her own terms, demanding satisfaction with feral yowls and rasps, her voice slicing across the grooves that she wrote and honed as her own bandleader and producer. Her stage clothes were shiny, skimpy, futuristic fantasies; her Afro was formidable.

A major label, Island, geared up a big national push for her third album, “Nasty Gal,” in 1975. But mainstream radio didn’t embrace her, and Island rejected her follow-up recordings. Not long afterward, she completely dropped out of public view for decades.

Ms. Davis’s voice now — speaking, not singing — resurfaces in Betty: They Say I’m Different,” an impressionistic documentary that will have its United States theatrical premiere on Wednesday at the Billie Holiday Theater in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, as part of the Red Bull Music Festival. The film includes glimpses of virtually the only known concert footage of Ms. Davis in her lascivious, head-turning prime, performing at a 1976 French rock festival. The present-day Ms. Davis is shown mostly from behind and heard in voice-over, though there is one poignant close-up of her face.

This month Ms. Davis, 72, gave a rare interview by telephone from her home near Pittsburgh to talk about the film and her music. After years of entreaties from and conversations with its director, Phil Cox, and producer, Damon Smith, she agreed to cooperate on “Betty: They Say I’m Different” because, she said, “I figured it would be better to have them cover me when I was alive than when I was dead.”

Mr. Cox said, via Skype from England, “Betty doesn’t want sympathy, and she’s found her own space now. To me, that is just as interesting as that woman she was in the 1970s. It’s the antithesis of the age we live in, where everybody wants to be on social media all the time.”

Ms. Davis has longtime fans from the ’70s and newer ones who have discovered her in reissues and through hip-hop samples. They have clung to a catalog and a persona that were musically bold, verbally shocking and entirely self-created. Long before the current era of explicit lyrics, Ms. Davis was cackling through songs like “Nasty Gal” — “You said I love you every way but your way/And my way was too dirty for you” — and “He Was a Big Freak,” which boasts, “I used to whip him/I used to beat him/Oh, he used to dig it.” She still won’t reveal who was, or whether there was, a real-life model for songs like those.

“I wrote about love, really, and all the levels of love,” she said. That emphatically included sexuality. “When I was writing about it, nobody was writing about it. But now everybody’s writing about it. It’s like a cliché.”

Ms. Davis was born Betty Mabry in Durham, North Carolina, in 1945, and she grew up there and in Pittsburgh. She headed to New York City in the early 1960s, when she was 17, and enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She supported herself as a model and a club manager; she reveled in the city’s night life, meeting figures like Andy Warhol, Sly Stone, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.

Continue reading ““Betty: They Say I’m Different” Documentary About Funk Music Pioneer Betty Davis to Premiere at Red Bull Music Festival in NY”

Barack and Michelle Obama Sign Overall Production Deal with Netflix

by Daniel Holloway via Variety.com

Netflix has secured a deal with former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to produce series and movies for the streaming service. The former first couple will, according to an announcement Monday from the company, potentially work on scripted and unscripted series as well as docu-series, documentary films, and features under the multi-year deal.

“One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience,” said Barack Obama. “That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix — we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.”

“Barack and I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others,” said Michelle Obama. “Netflix’s unparalleled service is a natural fit for the kinds of stories we want to share, and we look forward to starting this exciting new partnership.”

Signing the Obamas is the latest, and by far the biggest, in a string of moves by Netflix to lock up the entertainment industry’s highest-profile producers in exclusive production and development pacts. Last year, Netflix poached “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes from ABC Studios with a deal valued at more than $100 million. “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy jumped from his longtime home at 20th Century Fox Television earlier this year to also join Netflix. Murphy’s deal was reported at the time to be worth as much as $300 million. However, sources tell Variety that tally includes money that Murphy is expected to make from his current and former Fox series over the life of his Netflix contract, and that the true value of the deal is in line with that of Rhimes’.

It is unknown how much the Obamas’ Netflix agreement is worth. In March, Penguin Random House signed the couple to a joint book deal that pays them a reported $65 million for their respective memoirs.

“Barack and Michelle Obama are among the world’s most respected and highly-recognized public figures and are uniquely positioned to discover and highlight stories of people who make a difference in their communities and strive to change the world for the better,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “We are incredibly proud they have chosen to make Netflix the home for their formidable storytelling abilities.”

Among President Obama’s most visible public appearances since leaving office was on David Letterman’s new Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.” Obama was the first guest in the former “Late Show” host’s new long-form interview program.

Word of a possible pact between the former U.S. president and first lady surfaced in March, when the New York Times first reported that the couple was in talks with the streaming service on a deal to produce several high-profile projects.

Sarandos has a close relationship with the Obamas. His wife, Nicole Avant, served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas in President Obama’s first term in office.

Source: http://variety.com/2018/digital/news/barack-michelle-obama-netflix-deal-1202817723/

Veteran NBC TV Executive Vernon Sanders Named Co-Head of Amazon Studios TV

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Former NBC executive Vernon Sanders has joined Amazon Studios as co-head of television, according to Variety.com. He will oversee creative and production units for Amazon Prime Video.

Sanders will head the TV division with Albert Cheng, who was hired during a reorganization of Amazon’s entertainment division under new top executive Jennifer Salke in April.  Cheng also serves as Amazon Studios COO. “I’m thrilled to announce Vernon Sanders’ appointment to Co-Head of Television for Amazon Studios,” said Salke. “Vernon’s undeniable expertise in nurturing talent and creative material will be a huge asset to our studio. Having worked side-by-side with him for seven years at NBC Entertainment, I can speak first-hand to his talents as a leader and creative force. I know Vernon and Albert Cheng will be a formidable team as we continue to build Amazon Studios.”

At NBC Sanders held posts as executive vice president of current programming and executive vice president of comedy. He also has experience in drama-series development, having been senior VP of drama at the network and sister studio Universal Television. “I am tremendously excited to be joining Jennifer Salke, Albert Cheng and the forward-thinking team at Amazon Studios as they build an incredible destination for high-quality, compelling content,” Sanders said. “My time as a producer has reaffirmed my passion for working closely with creators to champion shows which delight and surprise our audiences. I’m grateful to my family at NBCU for their support as I jump into this new challenge.”

Among the series Sanders worked on while at NBC are “30 Rock,” “The Office,” “Friday Night Lights,” “This is Us,” “The Blacklist,” “The Good Place,” and the revival of “Will and Grace.”

Meet Sherrie Silver, 23, the Choreographer Behind Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ Video

Choreographer Sherrie Silver (photo via afropunk.com)

by Cree B. McClellan via afropunk.com

Imagine if all the themes of an era were compacted in a sensory journey of rhythm, lyrical controversy, props, symbolism, and movement…. well Donald Glover has done it. His latest hit “This is America” is the whole package as it dissects the current state of a mixed nation under the tyrannical boots of discrimination, capitalism, and internalized stratification- and almost all his projects are collaborative, his work reaches volumes as it lets others shine.

One shinning contributor to the projects energy is the video’s choreographer: 23 year-old Sherrie Silver. Having danced for years, the Rwanda-born, England-bred creative initially gained traction for her “Afro-Dance” videos on Youtube, but after Glovers team reached out, her career took on a different weight.

She tells Interview: “The video is full of madness and reflects what’s going on in America and around the world right now. The kids and the choir are supposed to be the happy part of that, so there are two different worlds at the same time. Multiple parts of the video are meant to catch the viewer off-guard, with people smiling and enjoying themselves before it goes dark.”

The themes of this video, are the video- so for Silver it was important to speak to all aspects of Glovers message. By incorporating African dance like the South African ‘Gwara Gwara’, alongside Hip-Hop phenomenons like ‘Shoot’ or ‘Nae Nae’, she succeeds in illuminating the dichotomy of joy and pain- as it related to Pop Culture and its hidden state of affairs.

To read more: Meet the choreographer behind Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ video | AFROPUNK

Denzel Washington Paid for ‘Black Panther’ star Chadwick Boseman to Study at Oxford

"Black Panther" star Chadwick Boseman
“Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman (Albert L. Ortega | Getty Images)

by  via cnbc.com

Chadwick Boseman, the 41-year-old star of Black Panther, may have Oscar-winner and 2018 nominee Denzel Washington to thank for some of his success. While studying at Howard University in the late ’90s, Boseman and some of his peers applied to a prestigious summer theater program at The University of Oxford. The group of students got in, but they couldn’t afford to go.

One of their acting teachers at Howard, actress Phylicia Rashad from The Cosby Show, “pushed for us,” Boseman told Rolling Stone. “She essentially got some celebrity friends to pay for us to go.” It wasn’t until after the program when he got a beneficiary letter and found out who funded the program: “Denzel paid for me. I’m sure he has no idea. … I’ve been waiting to meet him, so I can tell him.”

Boseman wrote Washington a thank-you letter, but he didn’t tell anyone else about it for two decades. “I’ve basically been holding this secret my whole career,” he told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, explaining that he didn’t want Washington to feel like he owed him anything else.

Boseman wanted to meet Washington in person before saying anything. He hadn’t met him before the Rolling Stone interview but, after 20 years, he figured it was OK to reveal the detail. As Boseman told Fallon: “I think I’ve made it to the point where he’s not going to think I’m trying to get something from him by saying it.”

Coincidentally, just before the Rolling Stone feature came out, Boseman got to meet his benefactor. Washington came to the New York premiere of “Black Panther,” and, “I met him, before the article came out,” Boseman told Fallon. “So I actually lived up to what I originally wanted to do. It was amazing.”

When Fallon asked how the introduction went, Boseman recalled how he thanked him for paying for Oxford a while back, to which Washington jokingly replied: “Oh, so that’s why I’m here. You owe me money! I came to collect!”

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/02/denzel-washington-paid-for-chadwick-boseman-to-study-at-oxford.html

March in Memphis to Honor Martin Luther King Jr. on 50th Anniversary of his Death

People hold signs resembling the signs carried by striking sanitation workers in 1968 as they join in events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (photo via eurweb.com)

by Errin Haines Whack, Adrian Sainz & Kate Brumback, Associated Press via blackamericaweb.com

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. remembered him as “the apostle of nonviolence” as admirers marked the 50th anniversary of his assassination Wednesday with marches, speeches and quiet reflection.

The Rev. Bernice A. King recalled her father as a civil rights leader and great orator whose message of peaceful protest was still vital decades later. “We decided to start this day remembering the apostle of nonviolence,” she said during a ceremony to award the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize held at the King Center in Atlanta.

In Memphis, where King died, hundreds of people bundled in hats and coats gathered early in for a march led by the same sanitation workers union whose low pay King had come to protest when he was shot.

Dixie Spencer, president of the Bolivar Hardeman County, Tennessee, branch of the NAACP, said remembrances of King’s death should be a call to action. “We know what he worked hard for, we know what he died for, so we just want to keep the dream going,” Spencer said. “We just want to make sure that we don’t lose the gains that we have made.”

The Memphis events were scheduled to feature King’s contemporaries, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, along with celebrities such as the rapper Common. In the evening, the Atlanta events culminate with a bell-ringing and wreath-laying at his crypt to mark the moment when he was gunned down on the balcony of the old Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968. He was 39.

Wednesday’s events followed a rousing celebration the night before of King’s “I’ve Been To the Mountaintop” speech at Memphis’ Mason Temple Church of God in Christ. He delivered this speech the night before he was assassinated.

Inside the church, Bernice King called her older brother, Martin Luther King III, to join her in the pulpit, and she discussed the difficulty of publicly mourning their father — a man hated during his lifetime, now beloved around the world.

“It’s important to see two of the children who lost their daddy 50 years ago to an assassin’s bullet,” said Bernice King, now 55. “But we kept going. Keep all of us in prayer as we continue the grieving process for a parent that we’ve had yet to bury.”

A gospel singer led a rousing rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and the gathering took on the air of a mass meeting.

Lee Saunders, a national labor leader, recounted how on that night in 1968, King made an unplanned appearance to deliver the famous speech without notes after his aides saw how passionate the crowd was: “There was one man they wanted to hear from.”

But Saunders stressed that the purpose of the week’s commemorations was not just to look to the past.

“Dr. King’s work — our work — isn’t done. We must still struggle; we must still sacrifice. We must still educate and organize and mobilize. That’s why we’re here in Memphis. Not just to honor our history, but to seize our future,” he said.

Some of the sanitation workers who participated with King in a 1968 strike sat in the front row and were treated like celebrities, with audience members stopping to take photos with them before the event started.

To read more: https://blackamericaweb.com/2018/04/04/many-march-in-honor-of-martin-luther-king-jr-s-death/