Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is January 15, but we celebrate and commemorate his legacy almost a week later. When the holiday shows up, we acknowledge him and his doings and then go back to our everyday lives of not speaking up and not fighting back against things like small acts of racial discrimination. This Palefsky Collision Project performance showed me a lot. I mean, it stars teens from all over metro Atlanta and it was hosted at the Alliance Theatre in Midtown. The performance happened on January 21 and Atlanta playwright Pearl Cleage and director Patrick McColery did a great job developing how they wanted the audience to feel.
The teens performing did an amazing job showcasing what they would say to Dr. King if he was alive. The letters that were written and read by the teen performers focused on what they would serve Dr. King if he was alive and came to join them for a seat at the dinner table. The meals included everything from chitlins to fried chicken to greens and macaroni and cheese. There were little things in the performance as well. The song lyrics written by the Collision teens ranged from a medley of the song “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round” mixed with a song about nonviolence. Seeing this performance didn’t just acknowledge Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in my mind, it opened my mind up about him. He wasn’t just a person who stood up for African American rights and freedoms. He was someone would not stop until something happened. Until segregation ended. Until integration was present and breathing.
Once the teens had taken a bow and soaked up all the applause and did a mini question and answer session, I had an opportunity to interview Shira Ben-Simon, an 18-year-old who attends Walton High School who is a part of the Alliance Theatre Collision Team. I asked her what advice she had for young and upcoming leaders, like myself and she told me, “There is a place for everyone and there is a purpose for everyone in this world and you create your own destiny. If you wanna make change and if you wanna do something, you go for it and don’t let anybody hold you back. Don’t let money, or time, or something like that hold you back. I feel I’ve grown so much as a person because of it.”
I think that right there is something Dr. King would’ve wanted to hear. He never got a chance to see integration like it is in 2019. He would be 90 years old now if he was able to look upon the world he fought for through non-violence and dreams.
Thank you Dr. King. Your spirit has taught me to stand up for what’s right.