My time in New York so far has been eye-opening in many ways. As I took time today to pay reverence to Dr King I found myself considering what his legacy means specifically for actors and creatives of color.
Here are thoughts my colleagues shared on the meaning of MLK Day.
“The freedom to be accepted as I am in all my glory. I can do what I love and share it without watering myself down or only being accepted by select audiences.”
“As a black actress I draw strength from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s Legacy. One of the greatest things MLK did was simply walking tall in his own skin. He renounced notions of inferiority because he understood who he was, and whose he was. He believed that everyone was a child of God and that fact alone entitled him to the fullness of life.
There are many who can only envision you in the boxes they create. There are some that don’t really feel your story is worth telling. Because of MLK’s life I walk tall. Even as I stand at a mere 5 ft. I hold my head high and I proudly tell the stories of those who didn’t always have the chance to. I’m simply grateful.”
Melanie Brezill, Actress based out of Chicago, soon to be featured in the Award winning musical The Book of Mormon.
“Not too long ago, people were kept from exercising their rights as humans. Fast forward a few decades, we have witnessed the election of an African-American president and improvements to gay rights legislation.
I am in the position to take advantage of the victories of our predecessors. I am a product of post colonial Nigeria and the Civil Rights movement. I create freely and because of men and women like MLK, I am also free to critique the world in which I live in without fear of prosecution.”
Derin Adesida, dancer and actress, based in Lagos, Nigeria and Chicago.
“I remember his words from the Mountaintop Speech, ‘I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight.’ This man’s foresight and sacrifice is amazing. He looked in the face of hate and injustice and found a glimmer of hope for the future, hope for the generations that would follow. It is a beautiful notion that most of us rarely consider; living your life in service for another’s well-being.
“Without Dr. King I would not be where I am today. As I start my first Off-Broadway show I can walk through the front door to get to my dressing room and not the back. I can have the same rights as any other actor in NYC, and have the freedom to do my passion without the cloud of racism over my heard. I can hold my head up high and say I am an actor, I’m black, and I’m Proud!”
Like Dr King we must be conscious and work towards leaving a legacy that performers of the next generation can build upon. It is not a burden, it is a privilege, and when things are difficult remember: the movement Dr, King initiated was marked by inspiration, defiance and resilience, three qualities will get you through.