This MLK artist series asks us to collectively remember Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. not just as an iconic Civil Rights leader, but as a human being full of love, joy, play, and healing. Each of these works reflects on what is possible for Black life. Who are we when we are relaxed, reflective, rested, and leisurely? Who are we when we are LIVING? Our movement is not about Black death, but rather, Black Life. This series reminds us of the joy, play, and leisure of our community. We will not let white supremacists steal our joy, bind our faith, or destroy our love. This series reminds us of who we fully are.

— Patrisse Cullors and Noni Limar

Derrick Adams

MLK's Tropic Interlude (Martin and Coretta), 2021
MLK’s Tropic Interlude (Martin and Coretta), 2021
(mixed media on paper)

Derrick Adams PhotoThis work is inspired by a 1967 Ebony Magazine article titled, MLK’s Tropic Interlude. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, for three weeks working “most of the day until way into night” to finish his book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? During the last week of his stay, his wife Coretta joined him, and they enjoyed moments of leisure: lounging by the ocean, cooling off in the pool, and dining at a cliffside terrace. The images are important because the most familiar images of MLK show him during his fight for our civil rights. These rare images from Jamaica are a necessary reminder that during our challenging work towards equality, we must also spend time in restorative self-reflection and regeneration, in order to continue and thrive.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah PhotoFive-time Grammy-nominated Sonic Architect and Trumpeter, Chief Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, premieres the new Adjuah Bow, talks MLK, the beauty of our history and traditions, reevaluation in the era of misinformation, and love and reverence for Black women.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah Extended Bio

Nikki Blak

Nikki Blak PhotoI was honored to create this commissioned piece in honor of one of the most outstanding movement leaders and thinkers of our era, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As the descendant of a child of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, not only do I reap the socio-political benefits of the foundation laid by King and his peers, but I am like so many also incredibly inspired by his legacy.

In these times of radical social change, it’s only right that we would reflect on and honor the work of such an iconic leader and movement.

MLK x BLM x BLK

ONE TIME
FOR THE DISCIPLINE
TO ORGANIZE
FOR THE LOVE
FOR THE PEOPLE
FOR THE VISION
OF FREEDOM
FOR THE DREAM
SOME OF US
WON’T SEE
FOR THE EYES
THAT INSIST
THEY WILL WITNESS
FOR THE MOUTH
THAT REFUSES
TO SHUT
THAT WILL
CHANT
AND REVERB
AND CALL
AND RESPONSE
OCEAN A
CONGO DRUM
OF SO IT IS
AND LIGHT
AND LIGHT
AND JOY
FOR THE
BLACKNESS
THAT WILL ASCEND
AND THE VOICE
THAT WILL MODULATE
UNTIL IT HAS
RISEN TO
THE THRONE
OF THE CREATOR

TWO TIMES
FOR THE GOOD
AND FAITHFUL SERVANT
TO BE IN GOD’S FAVOR
TO BE RIGHTEOUSLY
INDIGNANT
TO BE UNPROVOKED
BY ANGER

FOR THE PEACE
THAT SURPASSES
ALL UNDERSTANDING
FOR THE GOODNESS
AND MERCY
THAT FOLLOWED YOU

TWO TIMES
FOR LOVE
AS THE MOTIVATOR

THREE TIMES
FOR THE HEAVY LIFTING
CULTIVATING STRENGTH
FOR DIVINE DISCONTENT
AND MORAL EXCELLENCE
FOR THE STRATEGIC
PERSISTENCE
THAT TURNED YOU
INTO A THREAT

FOR PRAYER
LIKE INCANTATION
ANCIENT AND RESOUNDING
AND THE
ROLLING OF
THE SEA
THAT TOPPLES
THE MOUNTAINS
OF VIOLENCE

TWO TIMES
FOR THE RATTLE
OF CUFFS
AND MILK
POURED
INTO EYES
AND THE FIRE HOSE
THAT BAPTIZED YOU
AND THE DOGS
THAT DEVOURED YOU
LIKE THE EUCHARIST

HISTORY TOOK
OF YOUR BODY

SUPREMACY
WILL TAKE
OF YOUR SPEECHES
REMOVE THE CURSES
NAMED FOR THEM
AND WEAPONIZE
YOUR WORDS
TO SHAME US

BUT WE ARE
OUR ANCESTORS
AND WE KNOW
WHAT WE SAID

JESUS AIN’T
OVERTURN THE TABLES
OF THE MONEY CHANGERS
AT THE TEMPLE
FOR YOU TO BE SANITIZED
BEYOND RECOGNITION

JESUS AIN’T
GIVE THE PHARISEES
THE BUSINESS
ON A REGULAR BASIS
FOR DESCENDANTS
OF ENSLAVED
AND INDIGENOUS
FOLKS
TO BE VILIFIED

YOU AIN’T DYING
FOR NOTHING

WE REFUSE TO ACCEPT
THAT MANKIND
IS SO TRAGICALLY
BOUND TO THE STARLESS
MIDNIGHT OF RACISM
AND WAR
THAT THE BRIGHT
DAYBREAK OF PEACE
AND BROTHERHOOD
CAN NEVER BECOME
A REALITY

DEATH
DOESN’T GET
THE FINAL SAY

THE SPIRIT
WILL RISE
AND RETURN
TO IT’S MAKER

WE GON’ CALL
OUR BABIES
BY YOUR NAME

WE GON’ CROWN
NEW LEADERS
IN YOUR HONOR

WHILE WE ARE
ABSENT ONE
FROM ANOTHER

MAY THE LORD
ADD A BLESSING

TO THE READERS
OF INJUSTICE
THE HEARERS
OF CRIES FOR
REPARATION

AND THE DOERS
OF HIS WORD

ONE TIME FOR
THE STREETS
BEARING
THE HOLIEST NAME
IN THE BLACKEST
OF NEIGHBORHOODS
IN THE BUSTLING CITIES

FOR THE HUSTLE
TO VICTORY
FOR THE
FUNDRAISED BAIL
AND THE ASPHALT
AS YOUR BED
AND YOUR FEET
THAT WILL NOT ROOT
INTO THE PAVEMENT
THAT WILL DRINK
YOUR BLOOD

TWO TIMES
FOR THE HUMILITY
TO INSIST
THAT YOU
WOULD NOT
MAKE HISTORY
BUT THAT IT
WOULD MAKE YOU

TO DEMONSTRATE
HOW WE
OUGHT TO
ANSWER
LIFE’S MOST
PERSISTENT
AND URGENT
QUESTION

ONE TIME
FOR MARCHING
AND YOUR MOUTH
THAT BECAME
A BULLHORN
AND THE MAGIC
OF YOUR IMAGINATION
BUILDING A JUST WORLD
FOR US
FROM A DREAM

TO DANCE
A NEW WORLD
TO SCULPT IT
WITH THE HANDS
YOUR GRANDMOTHER
GIFTED YOU
FOR THE POWER
TO SUSTAIN
389 DAYS
OF RESISTANCE
AND YIELD
TO MAHALIA’S
WHISPERS
BEHIND YOU
AT THE PULPIT
AND ANSWER
HER INSISTENCE
BY GIFTING HISTORY
A TYPE OF BRILLIANCE
THIS COUNTRY
COULD NEVER
BE WORTHY OF
A TYPE OF BRILLIANCE
INTENDED FOR US

Melanie Charles

Melanie Charles PhotoBrooklyn based singer, songwriter, and producer Melanie Charles continues her sonic journey to Make Jazz Trill Again with a meditation on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message delivered in his speech, Where Do We Go From Here? In a letter to her higher self, she flows into a mantra to “chill in love,” reinforces the need for Black joy, care, and relaxation along the road to freedom.

Rodney Diverlus

Rodney Diverlus PhotoSimply, an improvisation, a meditation, and a dance party with and for MLK. Using his final ‘mountaintop’ speech in 1968, and Ravyn Wngz’ viral press intervention in 2020 as acts of remembrance, of solemnity and release.

Concept/Performance by @Rodney Diverlus
Phone Camera Assistance by @Tory_a_
Words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1968) and @ravynwngz (2020)

Shaina Simmons

Shaina Simmons PhotoTwerk on Washington is a declaration of freedom and healing. Advocating for the decolonization of oversexualizing Black women’s bodies to reclaim ancient sacred dances of liberation and wellness. Sampling the “I Have a Dream” by the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The shame of traditional African practices is not ours. Trauma is kept in the body, shake it off.

Produced by Chandel | @mynameischandel
Videography by Deondre | @deondres.gallery

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