To commemorate what would have been his 110th birthday, poets Delores Kendrick and Evie Shockley will celebrate the legacy of American poet Langston Hughes by reading selections from his work and discussing his influence on their own writing on Wednesday February 1 at 12 noon in the Whittall Pavillion in the Thomas Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress. Hailed as one of the premier voices and figures of the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes realized an extraordinary career as a writer, advocate and world influencer. The Jefferson Building is located at 10 First Street SE near the Capitol South Metro stop.
Archive for January, 2012
While winter and its cold temperatures have set in throughout Washington, two stage performances are coming to the area to warm things up. For one weekend only, January 26 -29 the touring company of the Broadway musical Fela! which examines the life of legendary musician and cultural figure Fela Anikulapo Kutiwill play the Warner Theater. The following weekend, February 3 and 4 the dynamic company of Step Afrika! will play three shows at Sidney Harman Hall. Step Afrika!, the first professional company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping. Both shows are full of fire!
In the very theater where he was shot and the last breathes from his body began to escape him out into a world that he helped to shape, his life and perspective will be remembered again in connection to one of the greatest advocates for equality in American history. January 26 through February 18 the Ford’s Theatre Society presents the world premiere of the newly commissioned play Necessary Sacrifices. According to press notes, the play explores the two documented White House encounters between Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and 1864 during a period of national crisis. In this theatrical conceptualization of these meetings between Lincoln and Douglass they delved into critical issues of union and equality that challenged Lincoln throughout his presidency. Written by Richard Hellesen and directed by Jennifer L. Nelson, the production stars David Selby as Abraham Lincoln and Craig in the role of Frederick Douglass.
Ford’s Theatre offers a limited number of discount tickets for patrons younger than 35 for select performances. To see a complete list of those performances click here.
In August 2011 the long awaited Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial situated on the National Mall first opened to the general public and was later dedicated in a formal ceremony in October of the same year. The beautifully carved stone monument was meant to be a great monument to a great man for the entire world to see. While the monument has received mostly praise since it’s unveiling, it has also received some criticisms for the quotes selected to line the walls that flank the likeness of Dr. King which is the monuments centerpiece. Some have even offered unflattering critique to the likeness of Dr. King saying that it is either too small, doesn’t look enough like him or that they would have preferred his facial expression to look different than the current rendering.
But as the country celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. King on the federal holiday in his honor, that has become a National Day of Service, ‘a day on not a day off’ I find myself reflecting once again on my visit to the MLK Memorial. I don’t remember a single quote and I faintly remember the size of the monument or the expression on his face. I do remember three things very vividly though about my experience.
It was a cool late summer afternoon in Washington. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The sun wouldn’t go down for some time after I left the office so I decided to walk down the green of the National Mall beyond the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial and venture ahead and to the left to see the MLK Memorial with my own eyes. The entire time I wondered what my grandfather and grandmother would have had to say about it if they were still alive.
When I arrived at the Memorial I was impressed by the hush of so many people who were gathered there. Hundreds of people were there but there was not a lot of talking or noise. It was mostly reverence. The most audible noise was the wind, inaudible you knew there were prayers of thankfulness being sent to God. Prayers for a number of reasons. The crowd was young and old, men, women and children and people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Quiet. Reflecting. Respectful.
I walked around for a few minutes before I heard someone call my name. It was a friend of one of my dear friends. He was sitting and taking in the monument for himself. He is African American, in his late forties and an out gay man who has lived in a domestic partnership with his life partner for nearly 20 years. We exchanged pleasantries.
I walked a few feet more and I felt a tap on the shoulder. It was a former colleague. She is a white woman, in her mid-thirties. She was there with her husband, an African American man who happened to be wearing his Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity sweater, and their handsome young son who seemed to be enjoying his time with his family and being outdoors. After I spoke to each of them I decided that I would head home.
As I headed out I heard my name called again. This time it was a young lady who once interned in the office next door to mine. She was excited to see me as I had always been a friendly face and offered her guidance when she asked. She explained that she did very well during her first year of college and that this semester she was home in Washington because she was interning in the Office of the Vice President. I was so proud of her.
Those three moments, those three people I saw are what I remember most about my visit to the MLK Memorial. I know that all three of their life experiences were greatly enriched by Dr. King’s work for equality in all areas of life. When we live our best life, love one another and take full advantage of the opportunities to serve and succeed, we each become living monuments honoring Dr. King.
Martin Luther King Day is every day. The true memorial to Dr. King is the way we live our lives.
When the name Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is heard many words come to mind, words like – dreams, freedom, hope, equality and justice. Yet, years after his death, after a national holiday has been proclaimed in his honor, post the unveiling of a monument bearing his likeness on the National Mall and his life and leadership explored in all forms of visual art, music, literature and performance there are some things with his name on it that don’t always bring to mind the words that are associated with him or his legacy.
In cities throughout the United States, streets, boulevards and avenues bearing the name Martin Luther King Jr. often bring to mind words like poverty, segregation, injustice and despair. It is a very stark contrast to the dream that Dr. King was known for promoting. Comedians have joked for years that when you want to find where the poor African American population is located in any major American city you simply have to find your way to MLK and what you find, you may not like.
In the documentary film, The MLK Streets Project this connection, or disconnection between the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. and the reality of MLK streets is explored. Through funding support of One Common Unity and A Nu View filmmaking program, eight Washington, DC high school students, were able to travel across the country and collect video and interviews for the film and produce this documentary. The footage and interviews tell the stories of progress and pause through the eyes of the residents in each city and the lens of these young filmmakers.
The Black Philanthropic Alliance in partnership with Woolly Mammoth Theater and the emerging creative powers of Straight, No Chaser Films will present a screening of The MLK Streets Project along with a community discussion Monday, January 9, 2012 at the Woolly Mammoth Theater, 641 D Street NW from 5:30pm – 8:00pm. The panelists for the community discussion include Rain Pryor, Terrie Freeman, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region, Ray Bell Jr. of the HOPE Project and Joseph Speight of Friendship Southeast Elementary Academy.
Learn more here.