Lupita Nyong’o, Black Thought, Yara Shahidi, Allan Houston And More Perform at #MLKNow 2018

More than 2,000 people attended free MLK Day event held at Riverside Church in Harlem, NY


On MLK Day, more than 2,000 people filled Harlem’s Riverside Church to see performances by Oscar-Winner and “BLACK PANTHER” Star Lupita Nyong’o, Grammy Winning Artist Black Thought, Actor and “GROWN-ISH” Star Yara Shahidi, NBA Legend Allan Houston, and more at the third annual “MLK Now.” Comedian/Author Baratunde Thurston and Comedian/Writer Akilah Hughes served as the official MC’s for the program.

Photographer Credit: Deneka Peniston / IG: dpshutter
Photographer Credit: Salahadeen K. Betts / IG: harlemite
Photographer Credit: Elliott Ashby / IG: elliott_ashby

Hosted by Blackout for Human Rights, in partnership with the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA), Color of Change, PICO National Network, and The Root, the free event featured speech and musical performances, as well as an all-women led panel discussion. In honor of Dr. King’s legacy and message, Nyong’o, Black Thought, Shahidi and Houston joined other dynamic actors in bringing to life his words, and those of other revolutionary figures.

The full list of speeches and performances at MLK Now 2018 included:

Lupita Nyong’o performing Kathleen Neal Cleaver’s “History is a Weapon”

Photographer: Deneka Peniston (IG: dpshutter)

Emcee/Actor Black Thought performing Toni Morrison’s 1975 Address at Portland State

Photographer: Elliott Ashby (IG: elliott_ashby)

“Grown-ish” Star Yara Shahidi in a video-recorded performance of Assata Shakur’s “Affirmation”

Still image from livestream by Riverside Church

NBA Legend Allan Houston performing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter to Coretta”

Photographer Credit: Salahadeen K. Betts / IG: harlemite

Actress Amanda Warren (“The Leftovers”, “Black Mirror”) — Coretta Scott King — Dr. King’s “Ten Commandants on Vietnam”

Photographer Credit: Salahadeen K. Betts /IG: harlemite
Photographer Credit: Elliott Ashby / IG: elliott_ashby

Tony-Nominated Actress Saycon Sengbloh (“Scandal”, “FELA!”) — Anna Julia Cooper’s “Where and When I Enter”

Photographer Credit: Elliott Ashby / IG: elliott_ashby

Since 2016, MLK Now has convened actors, artists and thought-leaders to pay homage to Dr. King and historical figures like Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Sojourner Truth, Angela Davis, Patrice Lumumba, Fred Hampton, Shirley Chisolm, Ida B. Wells, and more. Previous performers at MLK Now include Chris Rock, Olivia Wilde, Q-Tip, Harry Belafonte, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Octavia Spencer, Michael B. Jordan, Uzo Aduba, Andre Holland, Anika Noni Rose, J. Cole, Adepero Oduye, and India.Arie, among others.

“Three years ago we did our first “MLK Now”, and we were so excited to be able to share the words by these amazing thinkers and speakers,” said Blackout for Human Rights Co-Founding Member and “BLACK PANTHER” Director Ryan Coogler, in a video message recorded for the event. “Hopefully you can see the relevance in them even now in 2018, as we look forward to another year. Special thanks to the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, PICO National Network, Color of Change, and all of the other sponsors as well as the amazing volunteers.”

Still image from livestream by Riverside Church

“We’re here gathered on a day when we commemorate the spirit of Dr. King — a man, an icon and a hero who meant so much to me, but really he’s emblematic of a movement, a movement that’s much larger than him, “ said Blackout Member and “A WRINKLE IN TIME” Director Ava DuVernay, also by video message. “I’m so happy that all of you are there, folks who believe in justice and dignity for all, to gather in his name and say ‘we are all Kings and Queens, we look out for each other, we hold hands with each other, and we lift each other up.”

Still image from livestream by Riverside Church

On the musical side, performers at “MLK Now” 2018 included Composer/Pianist Samora Pinderhughes (who also serves as Blackout’s Musical Director); Dancer Brinae Ali, accompanied by jazz musicians Ben Williams, Salim Ajanku, Omari Bey, and Sean Jones; Emcee/Activist Tef Poe; and Grammy-Nominated Gospel Artist Jonathan McReynolds.

Grammy-Nominated Artist Jonathan McReynolds (Photo Credit: Elliott Ashby / IG: elliott_ashby)
Dancer Brinae Ali performs to “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (Photographer Credit: Salahadeen K. Betts / IG: harlemite)
Photographer Credit: Salahadeen K. Betts / IG: harlemite
Emcee/Activist Tef Poe performs original selection (Photographer Credit: Elliott Ashby / IG: elliott_ashby)

In addition, “MLK Now” 2018 featured a panel discussion moderated by Danielle Belton, Editor-In-Chief of The Root (which served as the event’s official media partner) and with Political Strategist/Commentator Symone D. Sanders; Activist/Journalist Rosa Clemente; Women’s March National Co-Chair Carmen Perez; and Political Consultant/Operative Dejuana Thompson. “MLK Now” also integrated a series of calls-to-action around issues related to solidarity with women and LGBTQ people, intersectionality, immigration reform, the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, and state-sanctioned violence.

Photographer Credit: Elliott Ashby / IG: elliott_ashby

“Today, we ask you to join us to understand and take the back of the Puerto Rican nation because you know, whether it’s movements for Black Lives, whether it’s the Muslim ban, whether it’s immigration, you always see a Puerto Rican flag there,” said presenter Elizabeth Yeampierre, Co-Chair of the Climate Justice Alliance and Executive Director of UPROSE. “We have always stood for justice. We ask you to join us in the movement for a just recovery and a local, livable economy that moves away from dependency on extraction, and towards who we always were — people who honor Mother Earth and our people.”

Photographer Credit: Salahadeen K. Betts / IG: harlemite

“In our 10th Anniversary year, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement is proud to be co-hosting “MLK Now” again, for the third time, with Blackout for Human Rights and our co-hosting partners to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, and the resonance of his words and message today,” said CBMA CEO Shawn Dove. “While our narrow-lens focus is building beloved communities for Black men and boys, we believe strongly in the importance of solidarity and community to create a future where all people can thrive. CBMA is proud to be involved with this event, and remains a committed ally in ushering forth transformative change for our communities, cities, nation, and world.”

Photographer Credit: Salahadeen K. Betts / IG: harlemite

“Words without action are a hallucination, and far too often we get into hallucinations at this time of the year,” said Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson in his remarks. “All around the country, today and throughout the year, folks are rising up to push back against destructive systems that are putting our communities in harms way, and I’m asking you to join us in that effort to build the type of movements that are beyond the words and actually connect to the action.”

Photographer Credit: Elliott Ashby / IG: elliott_ashby

All three “MLK Now” events have been produced by members of Blackout, which is an entirely volunteer-led collective of artist-influencers, activists and every day citizens dedicated to elevating and advocating on behalf of human rights and social justice issues.

Production team behind “MLK Now” (Left to Center): Chad Quinn, Rashid Shabazz, Dan Roth, Claire Brooks, Michael Benjamin Latt, Samora Pinderhughes, Pastor Michael McBride, Janet A. Dickerson

To see more from“MLK Now 2018” , follow @UnitedBlackout on Twitter and Instagram, as well as the hashtags #MLKNow and #MLKNow2018.

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