Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.
(Reuters photo by Larry Downing)
“He captured the spotlight of history precisely at the right time, and responded with a blueprint for what America could become if it trusted its democratic legacy… He was murdered. But his dream still excites our social and political imaginations. It beckons us to work, to realize the dream that America can indeed be a truly pluralistic society and that planet Earth can be a place in the universe where peace, justice, and freedom are the dominant ethos.” ––James M. Washington, Introduction to A Testament of Hope, The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 28, 2013, will mark the 50th anniversary of the great 1963 March on Washington D.C. for Civil Rights and for Martin Luther King Jr.’s delivery of his now iconic “I Have a Dream” speech before a national audience. Plans had long been underway to commemorate the event on Saturday, August 24, with a symbolic reenactment of the original march. Recent events, however, such as George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the killing of Trayvon Martin and the Supreme Court’s decision to all but repeal the 1965 Voting Rights Act, have inspired many to call for something beyond symbolism.
With Martin Luther King, III, working alongside Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, the goal has evolved from hopes to make a meaningful emblematic gesture to accomplishing a true nonviolent protest that will help encourage action against the seeming tide of political and social regression sweeping over the nation. With that in mind, the commemorative march, conferences, film festivals, concerts, and other activities slated to take place August 24 - August 28 will help determine the significance of MLK’s dream in 2013.
Fresh Film Takes on a Complex Issue
Whereas much of contemporary America’s troubles may be traced to economic factors, the racial component has become too increasingly volatile to dismiss with a few short-lived riots or with condescending political motions that sound momentous but ultimately deliver little along the lines of sustainable solutions. As if to underscore how much aspects of race relations have not changed since the original march on Washington, the new films Fruitvale Station and Lee Daniels' The Butler provide contrasting yet complementary portraits of life and death as a black male in America.
Fruitvale Station tells the real-life story of Oscar Grant (played to critical acclaim by Michael B. Jordan), shot in the back in 2009 by a policeman in Oakland, California, while onlookers videotaped the horror. Director Lee Daniels’The Butler, featuring a megastar cast headed by Academy Award Winner Forest Whitaker and Academy Award Honoree Oprah Winfrey, brings viewers the story of White House attendant Cecil Gaines, modeled after the biography of former real-life White House butler Eugene Allen (1919-2010).
Both films offer fresh takes on the complex nature of race relations in America, examining the brutally persistent character of racism as well as the unyielding progressions of antiracism. While The Butler actually takes place during the rise and fall of Martin Luther King Jr.’s incredible career as the nation’s most galvanizing advocate for civil rights, Fruitvale Station has drawn inevitable comparisons to the case of Trayvon Martin and other black youth killed by violence. With their subtle emphasis on the chronic devaluation of black men’s lives in general, both films may be said to illustrate the kind of conditions that prompted King to pen “I Have a Dream.”
co-author Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
and Elemental The Power of Illuminated Love
Causes Aberjhani * Supports
I make contributions to a number of charities through my lenses on Squidoo but the following are a few that interest me the most: