People nationwide joined in collective celebration of one of our world’s great heroes yesterday, commemorating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. As I am sure there is no need for a history lesson right now and if you need to be informed about who this great man was… you need more help than this post will ever provide. As we at All Black Everything spent our days of service reaching out in our communities, it was hard not to ponder the influence Dr. King’s actions and words have had on the fields of art and design.
For our supporters in and around the New York City area who want to tap into the spirit of the day, be sure to check out the acclaimed Broadway play, The Mountaintop. The story is a fictional retelling of the the night before Martin’s tragic assassination, with the entire play set in the Room 306 at the Lorraine Hotel. Written by playwright Katori Hall, the UK production won the prestigious Olivier Award for Best New Play. This was monumental as Hall was the first black woman to win in history. Add to all this that the Broadway production stars Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Basset, who could resist? There are discounts for ticket purchases this week, so don’t miss out… the show closes on January 22!
MLK has also been the inspiration for many other influential design moments. Its only been a year, but Spike Lee’s moving commercial for Chevrolet from last years King Day Celebration still moves me. With their whole Table of Brotherhood campaign ad, Chevrolet was one of the major advertising accounts that helped solidify Spike DDB, the firm that resulted when Spike Lee opened a joint venture with DDB Needham Worldwide. They are one of the more noted black advertising firms to land some major accounts like FinishLine.
Turning our head to the built environment, there were many other memorials and buildings that came long before the newest addition to the Washington Mall. One of the lesser known design gems to feature the words and evoke the spirit of Dr. King’s work was the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, ALby architect, Maya Lin. The fountain includes a timeline that ends with Martin’s untimely death.
Another King inspired fountain can be found in San Francisco at Yerba Buena Gardens. The site was designed by architect, Joseph de Pace and sculpted by artist Houston Conwill. The fountain is the largest fountain on the Western Coast of America.
Moving further up the Western Coast is the Martin Luther King Memorial Park in Seattle. Inspired by the “I’ve Been To the Mountaintop” speech, the site is set into the landscape of the park surrounding a reflection pool and statue honoring the event.
Another site that uses the inspiration of Martin’s words to commemorate a site is the former Martin Luther King, Jr. Educational Campus in New York City. After the original high school was closed in 2005, sculptor William Tarr created a steel sculpture matching the new campus’ facade on the site in homage to the school.
Moving to Atlanta, most people have done the historic tours to Ebenezer Baptist Church and the King Vistor’s Center to see his tomb, but there may be a new stop on the MLK tour soon. Designed by the Freelon Group and HOK, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights will create a space for the study, celebration, and education of the struggle for equality for all. The building’s shape is based on the idea of interlocking arms.
You may remember early last year when we covered the announcement of the final design of the now completed MLK Memorial in Washington DC. Recently, a lot of controversy was sparked regarding one of the quotes chosen for the Stone of Hope, the cornerstone of the memorial’s design. Many visitors have spoken out regarding the paraphrasing of a quote from Dr. King’s and have asked the designers and people managing the memorial to change the inscription on the stone. The controversial quote is “I Was a Drum Major for Justice, Peace, and Righteousness” which has been adapted from Martin’s original words, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”
Looking at the way Dr. King’s life, vision, and legacy have inspired other artists and designers in their creation of unique works is inspiring. We at All Black Everything challenge you to look to his words and message and find a way to champion it into your own creativity. And because there is no better way for it to be said….
“And we all know everything that he stood for time will bring for in peace our hearts will sing thanks to Martin Luther King…”