Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Martin Luther King toasted by Walter Mosley and the Persuasions

Billing itself as the biggest MLK celebration in New York City, Brooklyn Academy of Music's annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the best way I can think of celebrate the man (rather than just sleeping late and being thankful for the day off from work).

For their 25th celebration (which happened yesterday), BAM had a parade of local politicians, including Michael Bloomberg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Anthony Weiner, Chuck Schumer and Marty Markowitz (who had the most stirring speech among the pols, many of whom talked about gun control in the wake of the Arizona massacre and Dr. King's own murder).

But for the celebration/tribute, the most stirring voices came from elsewhere. Author Walter Mosley (best known for his Easy Rawlins detective series) was the keynote speaker and he took the time to address (appropriate for the day), the question of race in America, which is one that was often on MLK's mind and which we keep trying to run away from today. Mosley attacked the question with precision, using not just anger but also cold, hard analysis and challenges. I videoed as much as I could of his speech (in three parts below) but wish I could have tapped more.

Along with the Reverend Timothy Wright Memorial Choir, the other musical guest for the day was acappella legends Persuasions (who happened to start out in Brooklyn). Though leader Jerry Lawson left the group about seven years ago, three original members remain. The several numbers they did for the BAM show were very moving indeed, including Lennon's "Imagine" which they turned into a moving sing-a-long towards the end. They did take issues with JL's line about 'no religion' and did want to prove that they (and we) needed some later. Several clips of their performance are below too.




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