On Friday the Seattle Community College District put on their 39th annual Martin Luther King Jr. event which was held at Mount Zion Baptist church to an audience of several hundred.
“And now we’re going to return to the past,” says Connie Thompson of Komo 4 who emceed the event setting the stage for none other than Martin Luther King Jr himself, well, sort of. The event featured look-alike actor Jim Lucas who portrayed Dr.King while giving a summary of his life and delivering a shortened version of his ‘I have a dream speech’ displaying a good eye for catching Dr.King’s vocal vibrato and facial expressions. Lucas wasn’t the only one who brought his booming voice to Mount Zion for the celebration though.
The event started with local choral groups performing for the packed house lead by Mount Zion Music Director Phyllis Byrdwell. Following the choral groups was praise of the Seattle Community College District by Chancellor Jill Wakefield who brought up the district’s successes and vocally dusted off the old accolade of Seattle Central being Time Magazines school of the year in 2001. The event was also attended by a gaggle of local public figures such as Representative Jim McDermott and Chief of Police John Diaz among a collective of SCCD administrators which included Seattle Central President Paul Killpatrick. And with the public figures came cameras, lots of them.
Camera’s dangled from every-which corner of the church recording the event for a SCCTV broadcast while local photographers hustled about making sure to snap that money shot. The event concluded with the church singing together, ‘we shall overcome’ with most of the crowd holding hands and if you check below, you’ll see our money shot of that.
Although there were a lot of faces to keep cameras rolling on, an unassuming man walking carefully with his cane gave the most interesting insights of the event, his personal experiences with Dr.King.
“He would steal your food (from your plate),” says Rev. Dr. Samuel Berry McKinney about his time spent with Dr.King in a post-event media gathering. “You won’t read that in a history book.” The soft spoken man who worked with Dr.King during his final trip to Seattle shared the trials they endured trying to set up a speaking event for MLK. He describes the duo’s problems in renting a space to talk at which lead to an incident with the “first Presbyterian church on 8th and Madison “ in which the church agreed to rent the space to Dr.King but rebuked after word of the rental reached the public. They weren’t able to use the space but McKinney spoke compassionately about receiving an apology from the group in the early 90’s. He attributed the denial of the space to the fact that at the time, Dr.King was seen as “the most feared black man in the country,” says McKinney. Sitting next to McKinney was MLK doppelganger Jim Lucas who was not without his own interesting anecdotes.
Lucas who travels the country portraying MLK is also a television actor who played a judge in the HBO series ‘The Wire’. Lucas discussed one of his experiences talking with MLK’s daughter Yolanda about a scene he has performed showing a fictional meeting between MLK and Malcolm X. Yolanda voiced concern to Lucas that the conversation didn’t show the true “daddy side” of her father instead emphasizing the “civil rights side” of Dr.King’s career.
The man who had a profound influence on the civil rights movement was very much alive this day through the stories told and the gratitude expressed by those at Mount Zion.