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Events to promote MLK speech movie

MARTIN LUTHER KING AP POLL

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King waves to the crowd during the March for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28, 1963, in Washington, D.C.

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BY COREY DAVIS
Staff Writer

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A re-creation of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s first ever “I Have a Dream” speech in Rocky Mount and a fundraising event to help fund a feature-length documentary film about the speech will take place during Black History Month this week in Rocky Mount.

The city of Rocky Mount and Dr. Jason Miller, an English professor at N.C. State University, will be hosting a re-staging of the “I Have a Dream” speech at 6 p.m. Friday in the Booker T. Washington gymnasium. The event will be used as part of a feature-length documentary film called “Origin of the Dream: Hughes’ Poetry and King’s Rhetoric,” which is set to be completed in fall of 2019.

Miller, who is a co-producer and writer of the documentary film, is the author of the book, “Origins of the Dream: Hughes’ Poetry and King’s Rhetoric.” Miller found the recordings of the “I Have a Dream” speech delivered in Rocky Mount in 1962 in the archives of Braswell Memorial Library.

After the King re-enactment event, the Rocky Mount Mills through a partnership with Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant will be hosting a fundraiser from 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Rocky Mount Mills to help fund the documentary project. The event will feature bands provided by Music Maker Relief Foundation, food from Tap@1918 and craft beer from Carolina Eagle Distributing and Bull Durham Beer Co.

During the event, Mills officials said, Miller will be speaking about the “Origin of the Dream” documentary film around 6 p.m. between the musical entertainment performances. Tickets for the event are $25 per person, which includes food, two drink tickets and an under-the-tent experience with the bands.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to be a part of celebrating this incredible moment in Rocky Mount's history, and we hope that everyone in the community comes out in mass and helps support Dr. Jason Miller's documentary, ‘Origin of the Dream,’” said Scott Roberts, general manager of the Rocky Mount Mills. “Saturday will be an unforgettable experience, featuring world-class blues, delicious food, craft beer and fellowship. We look forward to seeing the community turn out in significant numbers on Saturday.”

The free re-enactment event on Friday will highlight King’s visit to Booker T. Washington High School, where an early version of the famed speech was found to be first delivered on Nov. 27, 1962, which was eight months before his historic March on Washington in 1963.

“We want people coming to dress in their Sunday best or look like the way they were wearing their clothes and hairdos from the 1960s,” Miller said. “For many people that were there when he first made the speech that are coming this will be a very moving moment, and for folks that always wondered what it might have been like, they will get really close to understanding what that experience was like.”

The re-creation of the iconic speech and people’s take on the speech will be used in Miller’s documentary film that illuminates the unexplored intersections of Langston Hughes, a famous black poet, who is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City. 

Miller said by doing research on Hughes, he discovered King used selections of Hughes’ poetry in his “I Have a Dream” speech.

“I was in the middle of Hughes’ first book on his work when I discovered that a lot of people suspected that Dr. King’s speech might be linked to Hughes’ poetries,” he said. “I set out on an eight-year quest to document if that was true, so Dr. King’s speech in Rocky Mount is the surest evidence yet that Dr. King borrowed samples of Hughes’ poetry. What Dr. King did was both honor the past but also create something that was new in his own way.”

Miller thinks that the version of the “I Have a Dream” speech delivered in Rocky Mount is one of the most unique, recognizable and important speeches in the world. Miller said people will be startled by how much things haven’t changed since King made the speech.

“Dr. King’s emphasis in his speech was on voting rights, and of course those are the headlines from today’s newspapers about gerrymandering and other things that North Carolina is at the very forefront of,” Miller said. “What Dr. King shared with folks in Rocky Mount by using work from Hughes was going back to the past to move the world forward. In many ways, we’re right there again, so Dr. King becomes revelant as ever.”

For more information on the “Origin on the Dream,” visit www.originofthedream.com.

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