Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams during BAM’s 2018 Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (photo by Elena Olivo, courtesy of BAM)

The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will host its 34th annual tribute to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., offering a series of free art, film, and music events this Monday, January 20 (MLK Day) and throughout the preceding weekend. The programming honors the influence and contributions of Black leaders and cultural figures both historic and contemporary, from singer Aretha Franklin to journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.

“Many of the sources of uncertainty and instability that we feel as a nation were addressed by Dr. King. His legacy continually inspires our own work at BAM toward anti-oppression,” said BAM President Katy Clark in a press release.

The celebration on Monday begins at the Howard Gilman Opera House with a keynote speech by Hannah-Jones, creator of The New York Times’s epochal 1619 Project — a multimedia initiative launched last year on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans to Jamestown, VA. Musical performances by Son Little and the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir will follow the speech, and several civic leaders are also slated to participate in the ceremony, emceed by Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.

A still from the 2018 film “Amazing Grace” (courtesy of Amazing Grace Film, LLC)

Later that afternoon, BAM will offer a free screening of “Amazing Grace” at its Rose Cinemas. Directed by Alan Elliott and Sydney Pollack, the concert film follows soul titan and civil rights activist Aretha Franklin as she recorded her eponymous live gospel album. Although the footage was shot at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles in 1972, the film was not released until 2018.

The New York-based artists’ collective Black Rock Coalition has curated two free performances presented the weekend before MLK Day, both at BAM’s café. On Friday, catch the electro-funk group Blak Emoji and Brooklyn artist Starchild & The New Romantic; on Saturday, the blues-punk group The 1865 will create music inspired by post-Emancipation America along with Chicago DJ Major Taylor.

An exhibition titled Picture the Dream, opening on Saturday, January 17, will showcase works inspired by Dr. King’s vision of equality and liberty created by children living in Brooklyn public housing. The show is in its twelfth year and is organized by BAM in partnership with New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).

All of BAM’s tribute events are free. Tickets for MLK Day programming will be distributed on a first-come, first-seated basis starting at 8am. More details can be found here.

When: January 17-20. Various times.
Where: Peter Jay Sharp Building (30 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn)

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Valentina Di Liscia

Valentina Di Liscia is the News Editor at Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...

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