By Clarence E. Glover, Jr.
As we celebrate the 26th anniversary of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday, I also pause to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the premiere showing of “In Remembrance of Martin,” the PBS documentary marking the first National Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday held in Atlanta, Georgia in 1986 of which I was privileged to have served as Interview/Consultant of the documentary.
I am filled with emotions as I reflect back on those two weeks in Atlanta when I along with Idanha Films, arrived in Atlanta to begin to document one of America’s most important events. Certainly it would become one of the most important documented events in the history of African-Americans.
There I was a young African-American man raised in Dixie, LA a son of the South preparing to help preserve for all times the memories of the first National Holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the South’s greatest sons.
During the celebration, I would interview. Mrs. Coretta Scott King, , Bernice King, Mrs. Christine King Ferris, President Jimmy Carter, Dr. Ralph David Abernathy, Senator Ted Kennedy, Dick Gregory, Bill Cosby, Bishop Desmond Tutu, John Lewis and Rev. Jesse Jackson along with a host of others who came to celebrate the life of a man who helped America to fulfill “Freedom’s Dream.”
While time would only permit us to show clips of the interviews, I am full of the memories and moments that I spent with each individual as they shared their personal stories with me of their time with Dr. King. Their stories are as important as Dr. King’s life itself, for their lives, interwoven with his and the countless thousands of others, who worked and marched with him, make up the fabric of freedom that has become the garment of the America we know today. Their lives and stories are the foundation upon which we continue to build the promises of a better future for those yet unborn.
While 1986 was indeed an outstanding and moving moment for me, I would be even more moved to return in 1987 to experience the world premier showing of the documentary. It was truly a star studded affair of civil rights icons who gathered along with Mrs. King and her family, to view the documentary that we had spent the previous year producing.
There on the screen was the culmination of hours of shooting and editing that would now become the official story of the first Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday Celebration. As I sat there with the audience anticipating each moment, I began to wonder had I asked the right questions, had we gotten the right shots, had we edited the right scenes? This was not just any documentary; this was the documentary by which the world would remember Dr. King’s First National Holiday Celebration. Millions of individuals would come to experience this celebration through this documentary. The documentary would be among the many sources that would serve to help future generations interpret the American story of freedom.
As we are facing what Dr. King prophetically called “some difficult days ahead” the documentary can serve as a compass to guide us through the rough waters of uncertainty today. Through his voice and the voices of others in the documentary, we today can gain new insights into what it means to organize and work for justice for all people; to call America to live up to its better self, and embrace the true meaning of the “beloved community;” to embrace non-violence as a life style that extends from our house to the “world house;” to work to insure, that justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.
“In Remembrance of Martin” is a documentary for all times. Its message is for all of us who dare to believe in the possibility of a shared humanity. As we reflect on those days in Atlanta in 1986, when thousands gathered to celebrate not only a man but a movement, we also are carried back to 1955 and the beginning of the modern day civil rights movement birth by the actions of Mrs. Rosa Parks. We are moved and inspired as we began to see men and women, boys and girls, Jews and Gentiles, black, white and brown, work together and walk together to make real the promises of freedom for all Americans.
I invite you to join me Tuesday, January 17, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the City of Dallas’ Martin Luther King Jr. Library, 2922 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, for a commemorative showing of “In Remembrance of Martin.” Admission is free.
As you and your family pause to celebrate the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday this year, take the time to purchase “In Remembrance of Martin” from PBS and share it all year long. And as you do, I encourage you to become an active participant in the continuing civil rights movement to fulfill “Freedom’s Dream.”
Clarence E. Glover, Jr. is CEO of Sankofa Education Services, www.sankofaeducationservices, email@example.com or 214-393-1861