Hey Charleston, SC, Washington, DC and New York City! Here’s an announcement of an upcoming event that you may want to be aware of, courtesy of BAM in Brooklyn. For those in Charleston, it takes place a month from now; while those in DC and NYC will have to wait until March of 2016; all leading up to the national broadcast premieres of 2 brand new documentaries previously profiled on this blog.
On March 16th acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns and historian and professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. will share the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House stage and engage in a dialogue about race in America, one that begins in Charleston, SC on December 9th and continues in Washington, DC on March 14th before coming to BAM. These live conversations contextualize the national broadcasts of their upcoming films on PBS: Burns’ “Jackie Robinson” on April 11 and 12 and Gates’ “Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise” on April 18 and 19 (check local listings).
The two-part, four-hour documentary “Jackie Robinson,” directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon, tells the story of Jack Roosevelt Robinson, who rose from humble origins to cross baseball’s color line and become one of the most beloved men in America. A fierce integrationist, Robinson used his immense fame to speak out against the discrimination he saw on and off the field, angering fans, the press, and even teammates who had once celebrated him for “turning the other cheek.” After baseball, he was a widely read newspaper columnist, divisive political activist, and tireless advocate for civil rights who later struggled to remain relevant as diabetes crippled his body and a new generation of leaders set a more militant course for the civil rights movement.
The two-part, four-hour television special “Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise,” hosted and written by Dr. Gates—who is also an executive producer with Dyllan McGee, Peter Kunhardt, Dalton Delan, and Anne Harrington—leads viewers on a journey through the last half-century of the African American experience. The film traces the unimaginable progress made since Martin Luther King, Jr. helped lead the civil rights movement to its greatest legal victories—an extraordinary 50-year odyssey culminating in a thriving black upper middle class, unparalleled black cultural influence, and our nation’s first black president. Nevertheless, the percentage of black children living in poverty remains about the same as it was when Dr. King was alive, showing that we still have a long way to go before we can say we have achieved his dream of racial equality.
“Race is at the core of the American story,” said Ken Burns. “It is there at the center of our history and at the edges. It is integral to our understanding of the past—and as such our hope for the future. As a country we need to come to grips with this history. You can only do that through conversation. We are hopeful that our films spur a dialogue across the nation, one that helps all of us better understand what we share, both in our past and in our dreams for the future.”
“The past half-century has been a period of remarkable progress in race relations in America,” said Henry Louis Gates, Jr. “Yet we are constantly reminded that many people of color still live a very different experience than their white counterparts, and there are still formidable walls that divide us. The only way to break down these walls is by communicating and better understanding our shared history and our shared vision for the future.”