A few weekends ago while watching CNN a quick little segment came on about a play focusing on the last night of Martin Luther King Jr. by Katon Hall entitled The Mountaintop. The play did wonderful overseas and hit Broadway this fall to a lot of backlash. That reason is mainly because the play portrays King as a normal man. That’s right a regular Joe who drinks, smokes and flirts with other women.
Why has this become such a big deal? Well it’s Martin Luther King Jr. There has become some pride in covering up his human side, plus not many people want to know his human side. Somehow people have it in their mind that will take away from who he was and what he meant to not just African Americans but the world. I know a Sudanese lady who got married around the time King was murdered she told me all of Sudan and other countries in Africa mourned as well. Not wanting to tarnish someone’s image is something we do with many iconic people, especially if they’re dead. You heard the rumblings when HBO were about to air the Documentary about Ronald Reagan. Right wing people felt it would be putting Reagan’s legacy in the mud. If anything it showed how he walked the line many of times on many things… It made him human. We saw it in the Ray Charles film, The Ali film and we can go on with many other Bio picks. We try to show slight faults to make them human yet still keep their image in tact.
Think about it, we as a public didn’t like how Michael Jordan came off during his speech as he was inducted into the basketball Hall Of Fame. Only those former players and close friends knew that was the real Jordan. Yes that’s right Jordan is more Kobe and LeBron (cocky corny asshole) than whatever image we were fed of him by the media during his playing days. Hell Hank Aaron is really celebrated nowadays because even now with a few books about him out there it’s hard to hear him say anything negative about white people, he’s old school like that, he still has some fear that they could hurt him if they chose to.. . .I’ve heard that in an interview of someone who has hung around Aaron. Now yes he knows he has to always be Hank Aaron so he’s not going to ever be that forthcoming with his feelings, but say after he passes and some son or grandson of a close friend of Aaron decides to let it be known Aaron had many stories where he was pissed and hurt at how white people hypocritically treated him.. I mean he was saying whitey, crackers and who knows what else, would people really be pissed? It would show he is human and I’m sure as much as some people will hate that most will be ok with it because we know what he went through during his playing days in the Major League Baseball.
So I could see why no one would want to see King in a way that all people are, you know normal. It’s why as good as the HBO film The Boycott was some African Americans didn’t like it, it made Martin Luther King Jr. human. I remember watching the Tavis Smiley show and he was talking to those who worked with King and one guy said that Kings loved joking. He had jokes that were even Richard Pryor-ish. That’s something people don’t get to hear and don’t want to know but should. Growing up you come away thinking King was lame if you’re from the hood, non violent… What? You’d see the footage of brothers getting their asses kicked and King ducking things being thrown at him and he chose to march and speak but not fight back. As an older man now I see that had to be a burden, if he lost control for one moment all he was working for would have been trashed. People followed his lead, they took those bumps because he took those bumps, and they held their heads up because he did the same. Now if someone said King would drink heavily sometimes and blow off steam with racial slurs about white people, the same white people trying to kill him would he really be viewed different? Truth is his marriage was on some hard times and even African Americans civil rights leaders weren’t feeling his latest crusade which was labor laws for workers, not just blacks but Hispanics and poor whites as well. He was uninvited to the White House because he had spoken out against the Vietnam War. There also were rumors of infidelity on his part as well. All lost in the image of who King was. If King had lived all that would have been brought up and like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton King too would have overstayed his welcome and the speeches wouldn’t have meant as much if it was all blacks aren’t getting ahead speeches. Again King started to think about people, all people which was the main focus in his message anyway, integration and equality, it’s why he is more popular than any other civil rights leader in American history. He didn’t limit himself to just African American problems but problems of those disenfranchised. That also gets overlooked and rarely makes the topic of discussion when people speak of Martin Luther King Jr. Maybe these closed minded African Americans and whites will see the play for what it really is, a man being a man, It’s just this man is Martin Luther King Jr. and he is being seen in a rare light, like an average Joe. I might have to wait for someone to put this on DVD seeing how I’m not in New York and I probably couldn’t afford the tickets anyway.