Tag: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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

GBN Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018 With Closer Look at Memorial in D.C.

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by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GBN Editor-in-Chief

In April of 2017, I had the good fortune to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture as part of a business trip. Once in Washington D.C. and at the National Mall, I was thrilled to learn that the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was only a ten-minute walk away, so after my work was done, I headed over. Photos don’t do it justice, but it is an awesome space, and one I’d encourage every American to visit it if ever in our nation’s capital.  It’s the quotes that strike you first – the aesthetic beauty of the words coming out of the granite, then the meaning, then the context of each one of them. Like the MLK we know publicly, it is equal parts solemn, potent, righteous and wise.

I’ve since read that the grounds of the Memorial, which opened to to the public on August 22, 2011, cover four acres and includes the Stone of Hope, a granite statue of Dr. King carved by sculptor Lei Yixin. The inspiration for the memorial design is a line from King’s “I Have A Dream” speech: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”  In a word, it is formidable. MLK stands as a beacon of strength, hope and possibility, despite seemingly insurmountable challenges and inequity and injustice. Reflecting upon the man, his journey and his words is of course doable from anywhere in any space, but there is something incredibly special about being to do it where he is honored in the same area as other lauded architects of this country such as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

There are fourteen quotes around the memorial – above are photos of the ones that I was able to get clear photos of before it started getting dark on my day. Enjoy and Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

Mavis Staples Tells Her Own Story in HBO Documentary “Mavis!”

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Mavis Staples attends the NY Premiere of HBO’s documentary film ‘MAVIS!’ at Florence Gould Hall on February 24, 2016 in New York City.  (MICHAEL LOCCISANO/GETTY IMAGES FOR HBO)

article by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph. D. via theroot.com

Legendary singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples has been in the business of making music and changing lives for over 60 years. The Chicago-born singer with the signature raspy voice launched her career in 1950 as part of the family gospel group The Staple Singers, comprised of her father (Pops) and three older sisters (Cleotha, Pervis and Yvonne). The “skinny 15-year-old girl with the big voice” was often mistaken for a man or a big woman, surprising fans with her childlike appearance despite her full-bodied voice.

Like many family acts, the Staples honed their craft in the church before taking their show on the road. Having recorded a couple of singles, the Staples Singers hit their stride with the 1957 release of “Uncloudy Day,” on the renowned Vee-Jay Records, which became a mainstream hit. The rest as they say is music history. Staples’ life and times as a singer and activist are chronicled in the HBO documentary Mavis!, directed by Jessica Edwards, who made it her goal to capture the life of a living legend in her words on her terms, having realized that “No one had done the story of her.”

Mavis! chronicles the rise of the Staples Singers and their evolution from gospel to freedom songs to soul music. Staples leads viewers down memory lane recalling the group’s work with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, her romance with the love of her life (musical giant Bob Dylan) and Staples desire to remain humble despite her staying power and overcoming the precariousness of the music business.

The 76-year-old, who still lives in Chicago, is still touring and picking up awards, having recently won a 2016 Grammy for Best Roots Performance for the song, “See That My Grave is Kept Clean.”  Staples is proud of her win. “It’s a wonderful feeling for an artist of my generation to be honored and recognized,” says Staples. “It’s very inspiring and it makes me feel like my decision not to retire and to keep making new music was the right one,” she adds.

To read more, go to: http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2016/03/mavis_staples_tells_her_own_story_in_mavis.html

Mavis! is currently airing on HBO. Check local listings

Selma “Foot Soldiers” from 1965 Civil Rights Marches Receive The Congressional Gold Medal

Aided by Father James Robinson, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., center, and John Lewis of the Voter Education Project, a crowd estimated by police at 5,000, march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma, Alabama Saturday, March 8, 1975. The march commemorated the decade since the violent struggle for voting rights began in 1965 with “Bloody Sunday” at the bridge as police tried to stop a march to Montgomery. (AP Photo)
Aided by Father James Robinson, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., center, and John Lewis of the Voter Education Project, a crowd estimated by police at 5,000, march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma, Alabama Saturday, March 8, 1965. The march commemorated the decade since the violent struggle for voting rights began in 1965 with “Bloody Sunday” at the bridge as police tried to stop a march to Montgomery. (AP Photo)

article via newsone.com

On Wednesday, Congressional leaders honored the “Foot Soldiers” of the Selma to Montgomery Marches in 1965 with the nation’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal.

Anecdotally, Paul Ryan – Speaker of the House of Representatives, who also spoke during the ceremony and praised the foot soldiers for their part in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – will not act on a bill to restore the Voting Rights Act that was essentially gutted by the Supreme Court nearly two years ago.

The ceremony, held in the U.S. Capitol’s Emancipation Hall, featured speeches by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and Rev. Frederick D. Reese, the former president of the Dallas County Voters League.

Thursday morning, Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL), who introduced the bill to honor the foot soldiers; Charles Mauldin, former president of the Student Movement; and Joyce O’Neal, a member of the Student Movement, joined Roland Martin on NewsOne Now to discuss the award.

Rep. Sewell told Martin, “Yesterday was about making sure this nation’s history is righting a wrong, they (the foot soldiers) should be given all of the credit [for] forcing this nation to live up to its ideals of equality and justice for all.”

Congresswoman Sewell continued, “I think it’s up to us, this generation and future generations, to continue the fight,”because there is so much more needed to be done to “strengthen the Voting Rights Act.”

In reflecting on yesterday’s ceremony, Mauldin thanked Congresswoman Sewell for introducing the bill and said, “This is probably the first time in about 51 years in my being involved in things that we’ve gotten recognition” from government officials.

He added, “We are certainly invited to the protests to demonstrate, but seldomly invited to the celebration. This is the first time that people like us have been invited to the celebration.”

To read more, go to: http://newsone.com/3359436/selma-foot-soldiers-receive-the-congressional-gold-medal/

Tape of Lost Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Found in the Amherst College Archives

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On February 6, 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the New School in New York City. It was the first of 15 talks given by civil rights leaders that semester as part of the American Race Crisis Lecture Series. The King lecture was entitled “The Summer of Our Discontent.” The talk was later revised and expanded in King’s 1964 book Why We Can’t Wait.

The New School archives contain a tape of a question and answer period that followed Dr. King’s address but did not include a recording of the actual speech.

Recently, a reel-to-reel tape was found at the student radio station at Amherst College in Massachusetts that indicated it was Dr. King’s New School speech. Not wanting to risk damaging the tape by playing it, the college had the recording digitized. It turned out the reel had been accurately labeled.

The speech had been rebroadcast on the college radio station on December 8, 1964 as part of a weekly program of pre-recorded lectures, some given at Amherst College and some obtained through arrangements with other institutions. The King recording is one of 46 open reel audio tapes transferred to the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections by the radio station in 1989.

The recording has now been made available to the public. You may listen to the speech here. A transcript of the address can be read here.

article via jbhe.com