7PM — The Promised Land: Different Takes on the Legacy of Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King had a dream. “I’ve seen the promised land,” he said. “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”
It’s more that four decades since he spoke those words — words that still ring in our ears, especially as we celebrate what would have been Dr. King’s 80th birthday this year. During this one-hour special, activist, environmentalist, humanitarian Majora Carter gauges the reach of King’s influence. How far have we come? What has been the impact on our kids? On our communities? We meet a minister who suggests that King’s legacy holds no meaning for today’s children, and a composer whose newly commissioned work “The Homecoming: In Memoriam Martin Luther King” had its premier in September 2008, sung by the San Francisco-based chorus Chanticleer. Paul Mooney, whose pen is behind many of the top African-American comedians, will help sort out how humor fits into discussions of King. Current voices in civil rights will weigh in on the subject. Author and activist Dr. Vincent Harding recalls his association with Dr. King. Dolores Huerta talks about continuing the efforts begun by César Chávez and what it was like to work and live in his shadow. And we’re introduced to Judy Bonds, a rural white woman fighting mountaintop mining and land desecration in her community. There was a time when she’d never heard of King, yet her battle echoes his in surprising and unexpected ways.
8PM — A Beautiful Symphony of Brotherhood: The Musical Journey of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From Martin Luther King, Jr.’s childhood piano lessons and choir singing to his marriage to a classically trained soprano to the songs that galvanized the civil rights movement, “A Beautiful Symphony of Brotherhood” explores the rich musical landscape of his life and times, and offers insight into the importance of music in his work. The variety of Dr. King’s musical passions was astonishing, encompassing leading classical performers, jazz legends, and pop artists from the Rat Pack to Joan Baez. Terrance McKnight of WNYC hosts this unprecedented examination of a life in music.
7PM — Can Do: Stories of Black Visionaries, Seekers, and Entrepreneurs
Hosted by Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actress, Alfre Woodard, this one-hour special presents stories from The Kitchen Sisters (Nikki Silva & Davia Nelson) collection. A man tapes the history of his town with a scavenged cassette recorder, a woman fights for social justice with a pie, a DJ ignites his community with a sound. These are stories of black pioneers, self-made men and self-taught women, neighborhood heros and visionaries. People who said “yes we can” and then did.
8PM — Women of the Harlem Renaissance
Broadway’s Carol Woods joins The Jim Cullum Jazz Band to celebrate a largely unsung group of black women whose artistry was pivotal to the Harlem Renaissance. Scholar and co-founder of the NAACP W.E.B. Du Bois argued that education, art and culture could be powerful weapons for social change. He launched “The Crisis,” a magazine that played a major role in the Black Renaissance of the 1920s, giving voice to such young writers as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. But it was the dedicated Jessie Fauset, working in DuBois’ shadow, who managed “The Crisis” and shaped its literary style. She is remembered today not only as a poet and novelist, but also as the Midwife of the Harlem Renaissance. “Women of the Harlem Renaissance” spotlights the lives and artistry of women like Fauset who shaped and nurtured black culture in Jazz Age Harlem.
7PM — Good Friday, 1865: Lincoln’s Last Day
The character of a country, and its President, are revealed — as a traumatic war winds down, and eerie events presage Abraham Lincoln’s own end… Produced before a live audience at The Museum of Television and Radio in New York, this original audio docudrama by producer Craig Wichman is the recipient of a National Audio Theatre BEST SCRIPT “GRAND PRIZE.” Mr. Wichman plays the 16th President, and Katie Nutt is Mary Todd Lincoln, in a cast that includes John O. Donnell, Emma Palzere, Vito LaBella, Derek Lively, Dan Renkin, Bernadette Fiorella, and John Prave.
8PM — My Song, My Story: Kool & the Gang
Kool & the Gang has sold over 70 million albums worldwide and influenced the music of three generations. Thanks to songs like “Celebration,” “Cherish,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Summer Madness” and “Open Sesame,” they’ve earned two Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, 25 Top-10 R&B hits, nine Top-10 Pop hits, and 31 gold and platinum albums. Kool & the Gang has performed continuously for the past 35 years, longer than any R&B group in history. Their bulletproof funk and tough, jazzy arrangements have also made them the most sampled band of all time. “My Song, My Story” offers an in-depth profile of the band’s beginnings and its evolution over its highly successful three-and-a-half decades. It also reveals how even today, the band continues to tour and connect with new and old fans. “My Song, My Story” includes interviews with the artists, their colleagues and family members, and features archival tape and music.
7PM — The Undiscovered Explorer: Imagining York
This one-hour documentary, narrated by Danny Glover, explores the making of an American myth. Through a rich weave of music, interviews, performance and dramatic readings, this program tells the story of York, William Clark’s slave and the only African American member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. York’s story is both heroic and tragic. He began life as the childhood playmate of Clark, but at age 12 their relationship was transformed into that of master and slave. On the Expedition, York experienced a rare level of freedom and equality, working shoulder to shoulder with white men. Upon their return, the other members of the Corps of Discovery were welcomed home with gifts and praise. York was plunged back into bondage and subservience, which ultimately shattered his life. The facts of York’s story are based on fragmentary evidence. Forbidden by law to read and write, York left no written record of his own. We only know about him through the writings and stories of others. Depictions of York have changed through time, always colored by the social era in which they are told. York has been characterized as a valiant hero, an insolent and sulky slave and a happy, dancing darkie. Yet, how York himself really felt about his experiences remains a total mystery. Today, artists and historians continue to give words to this man who has no voice in history. A look at how York is portrayed through history opens the door to many questions about American society at large and about how history is recorded, remembered and created. It is this aspect of York — the “Invisible Man” who exists only as a reflection of ourselves — that informs this documentary.
8PM — Lady Writes the Blues: The Rose Marie McCoy Story
Born in 1922, Rose Marie McCoy grew up in a tin shack in rural Arkansas. By the 1960s, she had become one of the most prolific songwriters of her generation. McCoy’s songs have been recorded by Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Dizzy Gillespie, Ike & Tina Turner, Big Maybelle, Ruth Brown, James Brown, Bette Midler, Sarah Vaughn, Johnny Mathis and Aretha Franklin. Her success was even more remarkable since she worked in an era when blacks and women were largely excluded from the business side of the music industry. But despite publishing over 850 songs, McCoy remains largely unknown. Hosted by singer-songwriter Maxine Brown, this hour-long special shines a long overdue spotlight on McCoy, who wrote her first song, “After All,” in 1942, and features interviews with such iconic performers as Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Scott and McCoy herself.