As a young girl in St. Louis, when I realized my school didn’t recognize Dr. King’s Birthday as a National Holiday, I was livid. Livid enough to convince all of my classmates of color to stay home in protest. While my Mom admired my activism, when she found out it was not a good thing and I was strongly encouraged to go back to school.
As a young woman at Howard University, I was protesting again for the King Holiday. This time, through my creativity and my senior project…two-part documentary on the process of making Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday. One of the subjects I interviewed was former Congressman Andrew Young.
Twenty years later, while attending the screening of King In The Wilderness and had the opportunity to tell Mr. Young in-person how much his contribution to my project meant and to simply say…Thank You.
King in the Wilderness showcases a side of the famed Civil Rights leader that we have never heard before. Told from the perspective of the four remaining activists closest with Dr. King, these individuals were intent on being the surviving lions to tell the story so that the hunters weren’t able to take credit for the tale.
Events are recalled like the Chicago movement to decrease unemployment, create more educational opportunities for people of color in the Windy City and the contentious relationship with Mayor Daily in attempts to accomplish it all. We learn that the infamous March in Mississippi only involved three people and ultimately resulted in the death of James Meredith. Stokely Carmichael and Dr. King had very different ideologies, but agreed on the types of rights that people of color should be afforded as citizens of the United States of America. After all, “you can’t defeat the enemy by becoming the enemy.”
In addition to marching and meeting with Chicago politicians, King encouraged the community to target real estate establishments because they controlled who lived where. People of color were shut out of certain areas simply due to their skin hue and fear, After all, during these days, the only thing that White America allowed Black people to have without question was church.
Ironically, the one thing that stuck out to me were the parallels I was able to draw between Herbert Hoover and our current President. Mostly, the way both are dogmatic about keeping America exclusively open to one type of race.
Most importantly, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a human being who was imperfect, but his love for his family was insurmountable. As King said himself, “it’s not important how long you live…it’s important how well you live” and his legacy lives on now and forever.
King In The Wilderness, directed by Peter Kunhardt and produced by George and Teddy Kunhardt will air on HBO on April 2nd.