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Rocky Mount Mills hosts fundraiser for 'Dream' speech film

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Angela Smith-Kent, right, plays keyboard and sings with Lena Mae Perry on Saturday as The Branchettes perform during a fundraiser for the Origin of the Dream documentary at Rocky Mount Mills.

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By Lindell John Kay
Staff Writer

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Blues and brews mixed together Saturday night at Rocky Mount Mills to raise money for a film about a famous civil rights speech first delivered 50 years ago in Rocky Mount.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historical "I Have a Dream" speech here eight months before the famous 1963 March on Washington.

Enjoying music at the Mills was Herbert B. Tillman, who as a 17-year-old high school student, heard King's first speech first hand.

"It wasn't the exact same, but there were many similarities, he was trying it out," Tillman said. "He said 'I have a dream' twice during that first speech so it stuck out."

The five-hour concert event, with a $25 ticket price, raised money to help fund the feature-length film titled “Origin of the Dream: Hughes’ Poetry and King’s Rhetoric,” set to be completed late next year.

Dr. Jason Miller, an English professor at N.C. State University, authored the book on which the documentary will be based. The book and film explore intersections between the words of King and the works of Langston Hughes, a famous black poet best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance.

Miller, who is also a writer and co-producer of the film, spoke at the Mills event, saying it was unique for Rocky Mount to be the first city in which King first announced he had a dream.

"People cry when they hear this speech because it's even more relevant now," Miller said.

Miller's words were bookended by blues music from world-renown acts like Cool John Ferguson.

Ferguson, who has played the Mills before, said it was a real honor to perform at the event and help make the film happen.

The fundraiser was sponsored by Rocky Mount Mills and Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant.

The event's entertainment acts were provided by Music Maker Relief Foundation; food was prepared by Tap@1918 and craft beer was brewed by Carolina Eagle Distributing and Bull Durham Beer Co.

Scott Roberts, general manager of the Rocky Mount Mills, said the Mills was honored to be a part of the unforgettable experience.

The documentary crew re-created the speech on Friday at the Booker T. Washington gymnasium.

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

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