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On The Mountaintop: Martin Luther King’s Legacy of Love

Drew Shade



The man we celebrate today came from holy beginnings. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is laced with hymns and praises, and he is lauded as the leader of the civil rights movement. But Martin Luther King Jr. was just a man. He held rallies where that was a battle-cry, “I AM A MAN!” Today, calling Dr. King a man seems simple, belittling almost, but in his time it was too much to ask. As we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., let’s revisit just how radical his proclamation was.

In Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, we see a human King. There are no grandiose statues or great pulpits, just a man with a passion for freedom and love. The 2011 Broadway production starring Samuel L. Jackson as King & Angela Bassett as his co-star, left theatergoers standoffish in light of an imperfect King. Ironically enough, Katori drew the humanity out of King to pull the greatness out of us. Katori’s King was so openly fearful so that we could understand bravery. Katori immortalized King’s place in the theatre; she gave dimensions to a man who lived under the threat of death but spoke about the equality and promise of tomorrow.

Today we celebrate a man who not only spoke of equality under monuments but marched for it in the streets of Memphis. Martin Luther King Jr. remained steadfast in a movement that watched its leaders become martyrs every day. He was a man that demanded humanity from a nation that abused him for drinking coffee at diner countertops. In light of the tumultuous leadership heading to the American government, I encourage you to celebrate King by honoring his resilience.

King’s most potent weapon was his voice. Nations honored him, while ours feared what his determination could do. King thrived in a country that was committed to keeping the Black community marginalized and without structure. Martin Luther King did not just turn the other cheek; he faced discrimination with debilitating logic, grand inspiration and will power that eviscerated anyone that supported injustice. King’s tireless trek towards peace was consistent therefore mighty. Even when racists bombed his house, he spoke love and not hate to a crowd of angry onlookers.

We celebrate King, not only for his ideas but for the actions that brought them to life. Every January, we honor a man who gave his life so that we would give the same respect to the sanitation worker that we gave to the governor. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life so that our character would speak for us instead of our color and he did just that. Even in the face of absolute hate, he spoke of love and solidarity.

Dr. King dedicated his life to creating a world as beautiful as the words he wove together. We celebrate Dr. King because, in his dreams, he saw a world that transcended hate and ascended to The Mountaintop. We honor Dr. King because while he was with us, he didn’t just preach about this mountaintop, he led us there too.

Founder/Editor-In-Chief of | Actor | Artist | 1/3 of @OffBookPodcast | Theatre connoisseur | All Audra Everything | Caroline over Change | I'm Not Charl Brown | Norm Lewis is my play cousin | Producing an all-black production of Mame starring Jenifer Lewis in my head



  1. Avatar

    Shamica West

    January 17, 2017 at 10:06 AM

    We will thrive if and when we treat each other with dignity and respect regardless of one’s station in life!

    • Avatar

      Malia West

      January 17, 2017 at 11:39 AM

      Indeed, King constantly encouraged solidarity and respect in his work. It’s that unity that he preached about that brought us this far.

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Happy Jackie Washington Day! Get Into All That Is Jenifer Lewis!

Broadway Black



Jenifer Lewis as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! Photo by Curt Doughty

Jenifer Lewis as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! Photo by Curt Doughty

Don’t act like you don’t know what day it is. Today is July 15th. A day that is undoubtedly in one of the top spots for the most celebrated made-up holidays in the world. It’s Jackie Washington Day. An icon made famous by the incomparable Black mother of Hollywood, Jenifer Lewis. If you’ve never watched the film Jackie’s Back to witness the outstanding performance Lewis gives as Jackie Washington you need to go to drop everything and watch it ASAP!

Presented as a mockumentary, Jackie’s Back chronicles the life and career of Jackie Washington (Jenifer Lewis), a 1960s/1970s R&B diva. After several years of toiling in obscurity, Washington decides to organize her own comeback concert with filmmaker Edward Whatsett St. John (Tim Curry) filming the event.

Jackie’s Back is a cult classic and is simply timeless although the filmed was released 20 years ago, June 14, 1999. Directed by the legendary Robert Townsend,  the film also starred David Hyde Pierce, Tim Curry, & Whoopi Goldberg with special appearances by Diahann Carroll, Liza Minnelli, Rosie O’Donnell, Chris Rock, Bette Midler, Charles Barkley, Don Cornelius, and many more!

However, Jenifer Lewis is so much more than that one iconic role and she proves it over and over.

She graced the Broadway stage on more than one occasion. If you read her book “The Mother of Black Hollywood” you’ll learn all about her theatre background. She was last seen as Motormouth Maybelle in the Broadway musical Hairspray in 2008.

However, Lewis made her Broadway debut as a replacement in the original company of Eubie! in 1978. She later went on to be a part of the original company of Comin’ Uptown (1979) & Rock ‘N Roll! The First 5,000 Years (1982).

She also keeps us cackling on ABC’s Black-ish:

We’ll never forget her in “What’s Love Got to do with It” or “In Living Color!”:

But let us not forget the amazing words of wisdom she’s laid upon us:

It can’t be lost on you how much of a treasure Jenifer Lewis is. Give her her things on this day and every other day. She deserves.

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Kareem Lucas’ The Maturation of an Inconvenient Negro (or ‘iNegro’) Kicks Off Cherry Lane Theatre’s Mentor Project

Drew Shade



Cherry Lane Theatre Kicks-Off Mentor Project With THE MATURATION OF AN INCONVENIENT NEGRO (OR INEGRO)

Cherry Lane Theatre is proud to kick-off its Obie Award-winning Mentor Project with this year’s first production, The Maturation of an Inconvenient Negro (or iNegro) written by and starring Kareem M. Lucas, mentored by Craig ‘muMs’ Grant. The Maturation of an Inconvenient Negro is directed by David Mendizábal and began performances on Wednesday, February 20 and runs through March 2 at the Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce Street, NYC). Tickets are $25 ($60 for a three-show membership) and can be purchased by visiting or by calling 866-811-4111.

This solo show of heightened poetry and raw self-reflection takes the audience on the subversive journey of a young Black man coming into himself, as he struggles to break free of what he holds onto most tightly. In iNegro – No one is safe. Nothing is sacred.

This marks the first show of three Mentor Project productions. Upcoming productions include three girls never learnt the way home, written by Matthew Paul Olmos and mentored by Taylor Mac (March 13 – 23, 2019) and The Climb written by C.A. Johnson and mentored by Martyna Majok (April 3 – 13, 2019). Casting and creative team TBA.

Craig ‘muMs’ Grant (left) & Kareem Lucas for Cherry Lane Theatre’s 2019 Mentor Project

The creative team includes set design by Wilson Chin, costumes by Dede Ayite, lighting design by Cha See, sound design and composer Mauricio Escamilla, and Kristy Bodall is the Production Stage Manager.

The Mentor Project, winner of an Obie Award for its dedication to helping early-career playwrights develop new work, each year partners an emerging author with a seasoned professional for a year of script work, rewrites, casting, rehearsals and a full production at Cherry Lane. Mentor Project is also the recipient of the James Kirkwood Award for American Playwrights.

This marks the 21st year if the Mentor Project which has helped develop works by playwrights such as Jocelyn Bioh, Katori HallRajiv Joseph, and Antoinette Nwandu.

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