Trey Ellis film: Dr. King legacy 50 years later

David Goodson | 3/29/2018, midnight
Jan. 15, 2018, we have, as we’ve done on the national level (all 50 states) since the year 2000, observed ...
"King in the Wilderness"

Jan. 15, 2018, we have, as we’ve done on the national level (all 50 states) since the year 2000, observed the holiday Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Had he still been with us, he would’ve been 89 years young. Since it’s conjecture, let’s say, although he probably won’t be as spry, he’d definitely be as sharp and articulate as ever.

The harsh reality, however, is that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, at the age of 39, fatally shot in Memphis, Tenn., at the Lorraine Motel. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Noble Peace Prize winner, a staunch advocate of nonviolence, was murdered!

April 4, 2018, marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of a man and the birth of a figure who’s grown to mythical proportions. Is that a fair assessment, however? Should the title of legend be his sole legacy?

Helping to shed more light on the subject is a new HBO documentary film entitled, “King in the Wilderness.” The operative word in the preceding sentence is “new.” Serving in the capacity as executive producer, the novelist, screenwriter, playwright, professor and blogger Trey Ellis explained, “We’ve unearthed so much never before seen footage and the conversations we had to people who were actually in his inner circle were combined with the time frame depicted in the movie, which are the last three years of his life; the period that people don’t really know about.”

These ingredients provide assurances that his view is on-point.

Ellis continued, “I tell people, everything you thought you know about Dr. King is wrong. It was crucial for us to provide that insight of a person that we thought we knew all too well, but we didn’t know the half. How funny and irreverent he was, his personal battles with depression, how tough he was on himself and how he found the resolve to keep fighting, despite the successes of his young life. We sometimes wonder what would King had done had he lived, and we forget that with the Bus Boycott, Selma and the March on Washington that he lived long past his personality. When we pick up he feels old, troubled and burnt out, besieged by attacks from younger, more radical Black leaders who accused him of being an Uncle Tom, all sides and from white folks who saw him as a revolutionary communist.”

Director of the film Peter Kunhardt added, “As a filmmaker, I felt a mandate to go beyond the speeches and the sermons, to create a true personal portrait of Dr. King. We were fortunate that Taylor Branch, the brilliant author behind the Pulitzer Prize-winning trilogy of books on Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement, agreed to meet with us. He came to New York and laid out what would become the foundation for our film:

“‘Most teachers and scholars cover Dr. King through the first 10 years of the movement— through Montgomery and Birmingham and Selma—because I think we’re in an era that wants to pigeonhole Dr. King as someone who’s about ‘I have a dream’ and the end of segregation. And it’s a shame because if you really want to know who Dr. King was beyond the fanfare, and who we are as a nation, it’s all laid bare in those three years from 1965 to his assassination.’”

Ellis concluded, “Once you see this film, you’d ask yourself ‘What have I Done?’ to affect change and activate yourself.”

“King in the Wilderness” is set to air April 2 at 8 p.m., EDT, on HBO.

Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.