Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Continuing a tradition in its 36th year,  the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) hosts the annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday

In my brief lifetime, I have vivid memories of the specter of a commemorative holiday honoring  the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the pushback and fallout from states within the union, until now, when his words, specifically the “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” quote, have been used by a LOUD segment as a method to minimize issues of injustice for today and future generations of African American. Thus, now it is paramount that we get to know what the man was about. As a compromise it’s advised to augment some form of study along with the celebratory events accompanied with Martin Luther King Jr Day.

In that regard, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will host a day-long series of events at the 36th annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., presented by BAM and The Office of the Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. The celebration brings together artists and civic leaders to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. King. Beginning at 10:30 a.m.  the inspirational program features a keynote address by critically acclaimed author and cultural historian Dr. Imani Perry, performances by Afrofuturist funk-rock icon Nona Hendryx with composer-trombonist Craig Harris & Tailgaters Tales, Vy Higgensen’s award-winning Sing Harlem choir, and a recorded dance performance by acclaimed dancer and choreographer Kyle Marshall to the powerful oratory of Dr. King’s final speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”  Getting there early is a suggestion as seating is available on a first come, first-seated basis. All guests and staff must present proof of vaccination, and a matching government-issued ID. Masks must be worn at all times.

A screening of Stanley Nelson’s groundbreaking documentary Attica will take place at the BAM Rose Cinemas at 1 p.m. Survivors, observers, and expert government officials recount the 1971 uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility. That violent five-day standoff between mostly Black and Latino inmates and law enforcement gripped America then and highlights the pressing, ongoing need for prison reform 50 years later.

Rounding out the day starting at 3 p.m. the Harvey Theater at BAM Strong (651 Fulton St.) will host Reggie Wilson and his Fist & Heel Performance Group in their Brooklyn hometown for a special community presentation of “POWER,” a revelatory performance of “moving into spirit.” In this kinesthetic, propulsive, rhythmic experience connecting American Black and Shaker traditions, Wilson explores the body as a radical tool for illuminating the internal and communal. Wilson imagines the mutual Black-Shaker influence as shaping experimental 19th-century American dance worship. Channeling the refusal of Anglo-Judeo-Christian limitations on the body, Fist & Heel makes that utopian energy manifest, whirling, stamping, and singing it alive.

If that weren’t enough, later in the evening, at 8 p.m., Black Excellence will be honored as Bounce, the nation’s popular entertainment television network serving African Americans, will present the 30th anniversary Bounce Trumpet Awards—a night of inspiration, history and crowd-rousing performances celebrating African American achievements and contributions. 

The 2022 Bounce Trumpet Awards will honor:

Courtney B. Vance (Excellence in Entertainment Award)

Stan Lathan (Living Legend Award)

Tyrese Gibson (Luminary Award) 

Zaila Avant-garde (Rising Star Award) 

Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the senators from Georgia, will be honored with the Xernona Clayton Award of Distinction. The award, named after the founder of the Trumpet Awards, goes to those who succeeded against immense odds, fighting for change and working to improve the lives of all. 

Princess Sarah Culberson, for demonstrating tremendous vision, leadership and innovation that has led to a positive impact on the community, will be granted the Impact Award. Culberson and her brother founded the non-profit Sierra Leone Rising, which distributed aid during the 2014 Ebola outbreak and 2020’s COVID-19 crisis and continues to raise funds for community growth.

The 30th anniversary Bounce Trumpet Awards will also feature a tribute to The Warriors of Justice, honoring those institutions and their leaders who have been on the front lines fighting for social, political, legal, educational and economic equality for people of color. The group includes:

The NAACP, the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation led by Derrick Johnson, president and CEO.

Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the international human and civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures.

National Urban League, the nation’s largest historic civil rights and urban advocacy organization run by Marc Morial, president and CEO.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the African American civil rights organization closely associated with its first president, Martin Luther King Jr., led by current President and CEO Dr. Charles Steele Jr.

“After a year in which we couldn’t celebrate in person, this year’s show is monumental, honoring the past 30 years of Black excellence and achievement while inspiring future generations,” said Cheryle Harrison, head of Bounce. “Bounce is honored to continue the vision of Ms. Xernona Clayton, the civil rights leader and social justice warrior, who has paved the way and inspired all of us. This event is truly a special moment in Bounce history.”

Just a few suggestions to spend the holiday; I for one think I’ll put together a playlist of songs associated with James Mtume. That will surely last well into next month. A great loss, but much more on that later. Over and out, holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife

Jan. 17 at 10:30 a.m. in the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House (Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Avenue) with activists, musicians, civic leaders, and the public for a communal commemoration and reflection of the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. King. 

The 2022 keynote speech titled “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community” will be delivered by author and cultural historian Dr. Imani Perry. Rounding out the timely keynote address will be inspirational performances by singer Nona Hendryx with composer-trombonist Craig Harris & Tailgaters Tales and performances by Vy Higgensen’s award-winning Sing Harlem choir. 

The annual tribute will also include a recorded performance of King, a powerful solo piece by dancer and choreographer Kyle Marshall to the oratory of Dr. King’s final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”

RSVP at BAM.org for more information and updates. Entry is on a first-come, first-seated basis, starting at 8 a.m.

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