“Fruitvale Station” and “Creed” director Ryan Coogler enlightened and inspired us all with the #MLKNOW event, which took place January 18, 2016, at the Historic Riverside Cathedral. Coogler and his organization “Blackout for Human Rights,” alongside the “Campaign for Black Male Achievement” (CMBA) honored the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. With phenomenal performances from several entertainers and activist in Harlem.
The event took place in the Riverside Sanctuary. Monitors narrowed in and exposed images of historical events. From “the March on Washington,” to Ruby Bridges, and even the protest in Ferguson, Missouri. Photos of the keynote speakers; Michael B Jordan, Chris Rock, Tessa Thompson, Octavia Spencer, Harry Belafonte among others, lit the stage while entering the venue.
Opening remarks from Coogler himself, as well as Riverside Rev Dr. Amy Butler and CMBA CEO Shawn Dove, filled the room. With prayers and blessings beginning the event, and powerful quotes from Dove encouraging the community to “Keep on, Keeping on” and remembering that “There is no calvary coming to save us,” the event started with high energy and poise to uplift the people of the Black community.
The overall event featured famous speeches made by black activist who fought for the equality and justice for blacks in America. Lin-Manuel Miranda started by reading “Beyond Vietnam” by Dr. King, Condola Rashad recited Shirley Chisholm Presidential campaign address. Michael B. Jordan blew us away while reading Fred Hamptons “Power where there's People.”
Chris Rock was able to capture the essence in James Baldwins “My Dungeon Shook” while delivering powerful quotes that read “The Black man is a fixed star in a white man's world and if he moves out of place, heaven and earth would be shaking.”
Musical performances were done by India Arie singing “I Am Light,” along with the works of Bilal and J Cole. Keraga Bailey stimulated our souls with their musical performance while shouting “God Bless my melanin and everything under the sun.” Saul Williams moved us with his poetic prose while telling us “I Love You.” There was no room for disappointment in any segment from the artist who graced the stage.
Other speech performances included Tessa Thompson, Anika Nona Rose, Andre Holland, Harry Belafonte and Octavia Spencer. Those speeches were from other activists such as Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, and Sojourner Truth. Harry Belafonte even shares his fondest memories with his long-time friend, the late Dr. King.
The event was a mere example of what empowerment should resemble. It was a moving experience that not only captured the life of Dr. King but the legacy of the black community. So, to those who have been fighting and continue to uplift our community, always remember to “keep on keeping on.”
For videos and images on #MLKNOW, go to Blackout for Human Rights on Facebook and Twitter.