Dion Figueroa | Correspondent
On Thursday January 12th, NCSU Libraries, along with the Black Jedi Zulu Durham Chapter, hosted a film viewing and Q&A session at State’s D.H. Hill library. The event was held in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. A modest crowd filled the auditorium in the Library’s West Wing to view the 30-minute long documentary “The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306.”
The film gives an account of the tragic day that Dr. King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Throughout the course of the film, Reverend Samuel “Billy” Kyles goes through the final days and hours of Dr. King’s life. Leading up to his death on April 4th, 1968, King had come to Memphis to support striking African-American sanitation workers in the city.
Rev. Kyles documents his time with King up until their final conversation together, happening just an hour before the shot rang out. Rev. Kyles, however, leaves the film with a hopeful message saying that, “You can kill the dreamer, but you cannot kill the dream.”
NCSU’s Dr. Jason Miller followed up the screening with a general Q&A which also gave audience members an opportunity to find out more about Dr. Miller’s discovery of an early audio recording of King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” from a rally held on November 27th, 1962 in Rocky Mount, NC. The rally was scheduled to be held at the Booker T. Washington Gymnasium in Rocky Mount while Dr. King was in town to support a childhood friend, who happened to be a reverend in the northeastern North Carolina city.
Dr. Miller is a professor at NC State’s English department and serves as the director of Undergraduate Studies. His book Origins of the Dream: Hughes’s Poetry and King’s Rhetoric discovers the link between King’s speeches and Langston Hughes poetry.
King used the opportunity to practice not just the “I Have a Dream” speech, but also other speeches that would become famous later on. Dr. Miller is also currently working on a film documenting King’s travels to the town of Rocky Mount. and the impact that King’s visit had on the city. When asked about updates to his film, Dr. Miller said, “We are excited to announce that as a result of last September’s successful Experiencing King at NC State event, we now have wonderful interviews with Pulitzer-prize winning MLK biographer David Garrow and actor Danny Glover to include in the film Origin of the Dream.” Dr. Miller has also garnered the help of Danny Glover to do some voice-over work, and has also gotten international artist Synthia Saint James to contribute original artwork to the film.
Miller was also a part of NC State’s “Experiencing King,” a two-day event hosted back in September 2015 covering showcasing projects around campus, like Miller’s that focused around Martin Luther King, Jr. The event ended with the performance of “An Evening with Martin and Langston” starring actors Danny Glover and Felix Justice
The other hosting organization was the Black Jedi Zulu Durham chapter, an organization who as stated on their website “is to be dedicated to improving and uplifting ourselves and our communities through both Hip-Hop music and culture.” Their website is www.blackjedizulu.com where they post information about events hosted in the community.
For more information about events sponsored by NCSU libraries check them out at www.lib.ncsu.edu/events. For information on Dr. Miller’s work on King, visit www.kingsfirstdream.com. The film, “The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306,” can be found on Amazon.