Two decades into millenium MLK tribute highlights BAM January calendar

Cherry blossom trees surround the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial at dusk, Wednesday, April 3, 2019, in Washington.
Associated Press / Patrick Semansky

For the 34th consecutive year, Brooklyn Academy of Music will honor the legacy of Dr. Martin King Luther Jr. with a weekend full of political and cultural attractions that will likely attract SRO audiences to the landmark location.

Schedule to coincide with the anniversary of his 91st birthday on Jan. 15, the national holiday celebrations slate a photo exhibition, film screenings, multi-media presentation, music performances encompassing gospel, rock and funkadelic soul, culminating with a Monday tribute, which annually calls the likes of US senators, congressional representatives, the mayor, borough president, city councilmembers, activists, intellectuals and prominent civic leaders.

Sen. Charles Schumer regularly boasts that he has never missed the federal holiday celebrations annually held on the third Monday of January.

Perhaps the most consistent guest to the ceremonies, on occasion the senior senator has asserted that his attendance was only once denied when in 2009 he was dutifully tasked to officiate inaugural installation in Washington D.C. for the second term of office for President Barack Obama, the first Black president of the United States.

Often poignant, inspiring and even humorous, Schumer’s message annually injects a letter Dr. King penned from a jail in Birmingham.

With nostalgic detail the politician is known to stir the senses of all who hear and rehear the turmoil of the times that Blacks were jailed for having melanin.

This year marking the first such tribute to launch the hosting for the second decade of the millennium, an election year for president of the United States amidst a looming impeachment trial, deep divisions among rival political parties, recently deployed military insertions to the Middle East following the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani — politics could override platitudes to the Civil Rights leader and Nobel Prize winner who was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Although a keynote address by Nikole Hannah-Jones, New York Times Magazine creator of the 1619 Project might temper the prevailing conversation when she talks about the multi-media initiative she perceived detailing aspects of the arrival of Africans to Jamestown, Virginia four hundred years ago. She will likely also elaborate on the system of slavery that manifested since then.

On that same occasion, musical performances by the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir and Son Little will also soulfully divert focus on the current and past political state of the nation.

Following the civic and cultural ceremony which begins at 10:30 a.m. inside the Howard Gilman Opera House at 30 Lafayette Ave., added free treat will feature an almost forgotten documentary titled “Amazing Grace.”

Originally filmed in 1972, the film features Aretha Franklin at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles, California where she candidly and soulfully exhibited the talent that later dubbed her the Queen of Soul.

Until last year, the film was never released. Reportedly Franklin prevented its release citing its raw and unpolished outcome. Last summer, crowd packed into venues to witness the landmark production which offers a peek into a Black church, an unprecedented performance and the making of a production.

The Picture the Dream art exhibition will be on view from Jan. 17 to Feb. 27 at the Devitre Lounge, 30 Lafayette Ave. Original works by children who reside in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) — will be on display. These artistic creations were inspired by the Dr. King’s dream of freedom and equality in America.

At BAMCafe the 1865 and Major Taylor blues funk supergroup curated by Black Rock Coalition offers a free concert at 9 p.m. on Jan. 18 on the 2nd Floor at 30 Lafayette Ave. Their music is inspired by 1865 America and post Emancipation events.

While there are numerous tributes to MLK, the day-long Brooklyn activities maintain the largest audiences and is reputed to be the largest held in New York City.

And from many hamlets throughout Harlem, the five boroughs and New Jersey, the memory of Dr. MLK will not be ignored in 2020.

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