A full day’s program dedicated to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. invited guests to “Come Share the Dream” at Brooklyn Academy of Music where film, music, dance and a plethora of speakers paid tribute to his legacy on the holiday named in his honor.
New York State’s senior Senator Charles Schumer explained that Dr. King’s Day distinguishes itself from President’s Day, Independence Day, Veteran’s Day and others due to the significance of the Civil Rights leader and peace advocate.
“There is only one day named for one man,” the senator said.
“Now it is a solemn day but one day we will celebrate the day with fireworks.”
Designated a national holiday in 1983 after a massive campaign united celebrities, politicians and average Americans to mobilize for a January 15 birthday holiday, the day has since rallied cultural, commemoration gatherings and for the 29th year, the BAM annual.
King became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace prize at age 35.
He championed many causes to empower Black Americans before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968..
But “the FBI said he was the most dangerous man in America,” Dr. Cornel West, the keynote speaker reminded the crowd.
Often injecting facts ignored by documentarians, the intellectual proved a provocative and poignant speaker who combined music references to provide a complete soundtrack to the genius of Dr. King.
“Don’t isolate my brother, he’s part and parcel of a chorus like Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, The Dramatics, The Delfonics, The Main Ingredients, The Jones Girls, Emotions and others.”
“He was a funkateer like Bootsy Collins and George Clinton. He comes from a tradition of a blues people.”
And although West likened the activist to accomplished and prominent entertainers, he also emphasized that Dr. King “was part of a tradition of great people.”
“He learned from WEB Dubois, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey…he was a man of integrity.”
“The last thing he wanted was to be one of those figures on Mount Rushmore…for self congratulation.”
The author of 19 books said despite Dr. King’s exemplary contribution to his people and country, 72 percent of Americans disapproved of him in the last year of his life.
Another sobering fact West revealed was that the year he was assassinated – 1968 -- 55 percent of Blacks also disapproved of the leader.
Introduced by Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, West enjoyed endorsements from the crowd who cheered his every rhyme and reason for keynoting the event.
In lauding Dr. King’s accomplishments, Cong. Clarke wasted little time advocating for 85,000 Haitians, the disparity with supporting freedom of expression in Paris, France and the lack of concern for Boko Haram victims in Nigeria.
“We the legacy holders must speak out for the voiceless. We must disrupt, we’ve got to be able to breathe,” she added, perhaps alluding to the Staten Island travesty which ended with Eric Garner pleading to NYPD 11 times “I can’t breathe.”
Other speakers included: Mayor Bill de Blasio, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson and outgoing BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins.
Sandra St. Victor & Oya’s Daughter along with New York Fellowship Choir provided spiritual enlightenment performing gospel and popular hits. Combining talents the entertainers closed out the program rendering a rousing version of “We Shall Overcome” the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.