My husband and I attended the premier of the Kirwan Institute’s motion picture, “A Reading of the Letter from Birmingham Jail.” We both thoroughly enjoyed the video and want to commend your team for a job well done. As former history major, I have read the letter a number of times, in addition to other speeches and writings by Dr. King. I particularly enjoy the works closer to his death, as he became more “radical,” but still advocating for peace.
I was struck by the audience member’s comment that it was confusing as to whether we were still hearing Dr. King’s letter or if the speakers themselves were talking. Since I have read the letter myself, I wasn’t confused by this, but do think that this adds to the power of the letter and the video. Hearing it from the mouths of local leaders, who I can envision saying these same things, really makes it resonate how on point Dr. King’s writing was and how relevant it still is today. Though we have come so far, we still have so much further to go.
I was also reminded of Dr. King’s discussion of the “white moderate.” Growing up in the north, I was never confronted by Colored/White signs. However, as an intelligent middle-class African-American, I still faced institutional racism and “good hearted moderates” (white, Black, and others) trying to keep me in my place. This continues to be an important dose of reality that simply being good-hearted and disapproving of the immoral masses does not solve problems, and in fact only helps problems persist.
While I enjoy eye-opening discussion-boosters such as this video and the Key Club discussion on educating the Black male, it is still difficult to know what to do to and when to do it to avoid being a part of the “good-hearted moderate.” Many such discussions tend to focus on what our problems are and why we need to fix them, rather than actually discussing how to fix them. I would be interested in seeing the Kirwan Institute, the King Arts Complex, or perhaps some of the leaders featured in the film lead further discussions/projects specifically on action steps. I think there are many of us out there who want to do something, but without a single unifying leader like Dr. King, we are often lost on what to do. So instead, we debate and discuss amongst our equally educated friends, do nothing, and become part of the well-meaning moderate.
I look forward to seeing more of the Kirwan Institute’s programming, wide scale distribution of this film, and learning what I can do to continue pushing us forward.