Wednesday, January 12, 2005

James Brown and "Citizen King"

Alamo Drafthouse Downtown's Music Monday series has lined up a gem for MLK Day: James Brown's April 5, 1968 concert at Boston Garden, shown as it aired live over WGBH-TV. The concert took place the night after King was assassinated as cities across America erupted in riots. Boston mayor Kevin White initially wanted to cancel the concert, but Brown and local civil rights leaders correctly convinced the mayor to let the show go on and to televise it live as a means of keeping people at home. When kids from the audience jump onstage and tense cops scramble to restore order, Brown calls them off and restores order himself. In a city not exactly known for racial tranquility, it was a poignant, remarkable moment in music history. And now you can see it for yourself on Monday, January 17 at 9:45 p.m. for only a buck.

This past Monday, the PBS series American Experience (produced, coincidentally enough, by WGBH in Boston) showed "Citizen King," a captivating two-hour documentary following Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life from the 1963 Lincoln Memorial "I Have A Dream" speech to his 1968 assassination in Memphis.

Free market fundamentalists, bootstrap-happy welfare reformists and affirmative action alarmists love to isolate and highlight the part of King's dream where he talks about not being judged by the color of your skin, but by the content of your character. They'd rather forget about the last five years of King's life, when he began actively opposing American arrogance abroad and calling for redistribution of economic wealth at home.

As Southern Christian Leadership Conference board member Joseph Lowery eloquently states, "Someone wrote a poem that said, "Now that he is safely dead let us praise him, for dead men make such convenient heroes, they can not rise up to challenge the images we fashion for them. Besides, it is easier to build a monument than it is a Movement"

In "Citizen King," filmmakers Orlando Bagwell and Noland Walker deliver a crisp, much-needed antidote to the misguided revisionism wrought on King’s legacy by the knee-jerking "content of character" crowd. If you're a night owl, have TiVo or can actually program a VCR, the show repeats on KLRU this Thursday, January 13 at 2 a.m.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up on the show. Michael and I are going to see it. Hope to see you there.