By Angela Chen
A powerful display of black female voices and a remembrance of black history and activism highlighted the Hyde Park Art Center and South Side Art Center’s virtual celebration event on Monday of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The event opened with a poetry reading by Chicago poet, artist, and activist Lesle Honore of “Remove Your Hands From Our King,” a poem calling out those who persecuted the black community and those who do. again. “Take your hands off our king, take your hands off his legacy, our dream,” his voice echoed as people in the Zoom chat clapped emojis and encouraged him to “go away.”
After reading poems, black filmmakers presented their work and
Excerpt from Martin Luther King’s Unsung Heroes, a documentary by Cathleen Campbell is an ode to the heroes of the civil rights movement. The Black Archive Project: Chicago Uprisings 2020, a short video series by Resita Cox, draws on first-hand interviews with protesters, organizers and artists during the 2020 protests following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by the police.
“Chicago was one of the first places MLK hosted in the Midwest,” said Cox, a documentary filmmaker and Northwestern University alumnus. “He talks about it and thinks a lot. And it just seemed like a match made in heaven, especially since this project is all about censoring the organizers and making sure those voices are specifically erased from the historical record.
“The Black Archive Project,” filmed in Chicago, preserves the events of 2020 to ensure critics don’t erase first-hand accounts and events from historical archives. The film series is meant to provide an all-encompassing look from six unique perspectives in an effort to continue building a noir archive of 2020.
“Unapologetic,” a feature-length documentary from Chicago-based filmmaker Ashley O’Shay, is told through the perspective of Janae Bonsu and Bella Bahhs, two abolitionist leaders and current activists who support #defundthepolice and . The film takes an in-depth look at the Black Lives Matter movement as well as Bonsu and Bahhs’ personal motivations and contributions to the movement.
The documentary hits close to home as the protests, activism and issues featured unfold in Chicago. The film covers the police killing of Rekia Boyd, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot makes several appearances in the discussion of the ongoing debate in Chicago over Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Police Department.
The celebration ended with a panel discussion on the films and next steps on what to expect.
“He (Martin Luther King Jr.) left a lot of tools, a lot of guidance, for what we have in front of us,” Bahhs said during the roundtable. Bahhs recently organized an outing with CPS students.
If you want to learn more about the films, the complete series The Black Archive Project will be on display at the Sisters of Cinema Media Art Center in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood this spring. Unapologetic will be on PBS POV until February 26.
Angela is a video/broadcast graduate student at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter at @angelaliuchen.