Don't just listen to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, be compelled to action. Yesterday (Jan. 15) in Harlem, the third-annual MLK Now event took place at the Riverside Church. As with the past two occasions, the event not only commemorated our greatest Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as the world reflected his legacy on his birthday, but it also celebrated other great Black figures throughout history, their words, their philosophies and how they impacted both then and now.
"If justice prevails I will neither go to the Army nor go to jail," said Muhammad Ali, as a video of him played on several screens hanging in the sanctuary. Excerpts from past MLK Now events also were shown.
Grammy-nominated singer Jonathan McReynolds opened up the show with his songs "Pressure" and "Limp."
Later, the Roots' Black Thought came on to give an interpretive reading of an excerpt from Toni Morrison's 1975 speech at Portland State University during a lecture series on "The American Dream."
"I'm going to try and channel the spirit of Dr. King while reading," he said, opening his remarks.
"It does take two the hold the chain," Thought said, as he began reading with a Pastor's presence and passion. "The chained and the chainer."
"Racial apologists will have you believe Black children will have to sit down with white children to learn anything," the legendary Philadelphian continued. "That Blacks have to go to Harvard business school before they can open up a grocery store... That the ego of Black people is jelly, in need of constant cement."
Actress Lupita Nyong'o read Kathleen Cleaver's "Women, Power and Revolution," which spoke of the ideals of young men and women fighting segregation and limitations put on gender.
Actor Yahya Abdul Mateen evoked heavy emotion reading for seven minutes, a letter by the recently deceased Erica Garner. "Black Lives Like My Father's Should Matter" enveloped Garner's feeling of hopelessness, anger and hurt, which filled the room.
"A banned chokehold was used on my father," Mateen read. "Several officers on the scene let it happen. My father is dead and Pantellio is still on NYPD's payroll because Black lives don't necessarily matter to everyone in America. If our lives really mattered, we'd have equal access to decent jobs, good schools and affordable housing."
Former NBA All-Star and New York Knicks Executive Allan Houston headlined, joining some of the other speakers on the program, while MC Tef Poe closed out the show not just with rhymes but with some piercingly poignant words about carrying on Dr. King's tradition.
"The main tool we have against white supremacy, against oppression, is that there is indubitably something magical about us," he offered. "There's something precious about us. There's something that can't be duplicated. Dr. King went from this realm to the next. He became an ancestor. But the fact is energy does not die. You can't kill energy. We have to be intentional about carrying that energy and understanding what that energy represents. We're living in times that are absolutely out of control. A lot of us don't realize that part of the reason it's out of control is because the empire is actually collapsing. You have to make personal decisions now."
Rob Hansen // REVOLT TV