Start celebrating Black History Month in Memphis now with MLK Day, step Afrika! & Black Violin
Black History Month officially begins in February, but Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday this month provides a prelude. In Memphis, start with a weekend of services and service projects building up to Jan. 20’s Be the Dream Commemorative Celebration, a worship service featuring local recording artists and guest speakers. Attend the service between 9 and 10:30 a.m. at Memphis’ Mason Temple.
Tour Mason Temple
Archives report that Mason Temple “was the largest church building owned by a predominantly black religious denomination” in the U.S. when it was completed in 1941. On April 3, 1968, Dr. King delivered his “Mountaintop” speech here. The following day, King was assassinated outside of Memphis’ Lorraine Motel, now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum. Today, you can tour Mason Temple by calling 901-947-9383.
Preview the Civil Rights Museum redux
Memphis’ National Civil Rights Museum traditionally hosts storytelling, children’s arts and crafts, dramatic and musical performances, local radio stations and food vendors on MLK Day. But 2014 is a momentous year for the museum – a 20-plus-million-dollar renovation of its Lorraine Motel exhibits will be revealed in March. January 20 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., $3 gives you access to the MLK Day activities, tours of the museum’s Legacy Building exhibits and previews of select renovations (check out the outdoor listening posts for personal stories surrounding the 1968 sanitation strike that brought MLK to Memphis, and the events surrounding his death).
Public access to the balcony outside Dr. King’s Lorraine Motel room (where he was standing at the time of his assassination) has been permitted for the first time during the museum renovation, but will be restricted on MLK Day. It will re-open following the holiday and close permanently on Feb. 2, so experience it while you can.
Bonus: Bring a canned good to Memphis’ National Civil Rights Museum on MLK Day to receive $1 off MLK Day admission. Call 901-521-9699 x2223 for details.
Catch these February performances
Plan now for these special events commemorating Black History Month in and around Memphis:
Step Afrika!, Feb. 9 at Germantown Performing Arts Center: The first professional stepping company in the world defines its art form as “percussive dance in which the participant’s entire body is used as an instrument to create complex rhythm and sounds.”
Seven Guitars, Feb. 13-March 2 at Hattiloo Theatre: Memphis’ black repertory theater company will present this Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-nominated drama about a band of blues musicians by August Wilson, the playwright who once said, “What I want to do is place the culture of Black America on stage, to demonstrate that it has the ability to offer sustenance.”
Black Violin, Feb. 28 at The Orpheum Theatre: When Memphis’ historic theater at the corner of South Main and Beale Street hosts Apollo veterans Black Violin, expect virtuoso strings funked up with a DJ, turntables and drums: a little bit classic; a lot of contagious beats.
How will you commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Black History Month in Tennessee? Tell us in the comments section below.