Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s calls for justice and equality still resonate in America––especially in today’s politically precarious times as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office.
In response to the tumultuous days ahead, organizers of MLK Now 2017 celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by reminding people to “stay woke.”
The star-studded event was hosted by Blackout for Human Rights and The Campaign for Black Male Achievement at Harlem’s historic Riverside Church. Celebrity appearances included Adepero Oduye, David Oyelowo, La La Anthony, Uzo Aduba, Michelle Williams, Olivia Wilde, Q-Tip, and Omari Hardwick.
The program featured a thought-provoking panel that served as a call-to-action for individuals who strive to fight for justice and equality. It was moderated by Jamilah Lemieux, Vice President, News and Men’s Programming at Interactive One, and Pastor Michael McBride. Panelists included Ifeoma Ike, co-founder of Black and Brown People Vote, Dante Barry, executive director, Million Hoodies, Black Panther Yasmeen Sutton, and Chicago youth activist FM Supreme, who kicked off the discussion with a powerful spoken word performance that energized attendees seated in the pews.
Panelists discussed the influence of fake news on the 2016 presidential election, how the new political landscape will impact the Black community, and how activist movements are often targeted and labeled as hate groups. The thought leaders provided insight on how individuals can move forward and create change.
“You have to understand what is being said to you, what is being said about you, who is the architect of that language, who is crafting this messaging, and what their end goal might be. Before you share something with other people, you have to vet it,” Lemieux said.
Barry discussed taking a grassroots approach in regards to fighting for justice as we prepare for a Trump presidency. “It’s going to be even more important for us to take the fight to a local and city level to build the power that we need to protect our communities, defend our communities, and build the vision that we want for transformation,” he said.
Malcolm X’s 1964 “Ballot or the Bullet” speech, recited by actor Andre Holland toward the end of the program, compared today’s political climate to 53 years ago. Many politicians, Malcolm X said, only choose to visit Black communities during election time and once they are in power, meet with African-American leaders over coffee. Sound familiar?
Gospel singer Erica Campbell, the Oakland-based collective SOL Development, Imani Uzuri, and others provided uplifting musical performances throughout the celebration.
MLK Now proved that voices like Dr. King, Malcolm X, and other civil rights leaders are needed now more than ever.