Faces of a King
January 15, 2009
By Paul Bello
Slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King was remembered Tuesday with a crowd-pleasing performance celebrating his impact on black America.
"Faces of a King," a short story written and directed by Howard University graduate Chris McGriff, took the stage in front of a packed house at Wood Theater and didn't disappoint.
For McGriff and his small cast of four actors, it was important to bring King's words to life and to establish a connection with today's youth.
"This play brings him back to life - in the flesh, so to speak," McGriff said in an interview before Tuesday's performance. "We want to show how his words still apply to today's society. Times have changed, but what he believed in is still very relevant."
As McGriff's story goes, a young black man named Tyrone is waffling through life without an understanding of how hard previous generations just like him had it. Even more unfortunate, as pointed out by his loving grandmother, the youth has no appreciation for himself.
As fate would have it, a chance visit brings Tyrone face-to-face with King and the two begin talking about life and how to make things better for everyone. Soon after, King asks Tyrone for his help in writing a speech, which turns out to be the famous "I Have a Dream" speech that King gave at the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington.
With a newfound appreciation and sense of pride, the play closes with Tyrone singing the praises of King during a heartfelt and rousing "gospel style" thank you.
Master Sgt. Ernest Murray Jr. of Fort Belvoir's Equal Opportunity Office approached McGriff several months ago about doing something in memory of King on post.
According to Murray, who first met McGriff after watching a play of his at nearby New Horizon Theater, the all-original work was even more than he had hoped for.
"We had school children from Fred Lynn Middle School and others in the audience today that I think will come away from this play with a little something extra," Murray said. "We wanted to do something different and began thinking outside the box. The play was great and I can't thank Chris and his cast enough. All the planning and coordination was well worth it."
King, who is the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and discrimination, was assassinated in the spring of 1968. If he lived, he would have been 80 years old today.
"We're one nation under God, and as long as we respect each other, we'll remain indivisible," Command Sgt. Maj. Allison Smith said after the play.