We The People, We Shall Overcome, Yes We Can!

Sunday Morning Breakfast, Horace Pippin, 1943

Sunday Morning Breakfast, Horace Pippin, 1943

Sunday Morning Breakfast, painted in 1943, in oil on fabric, by Horace Pippin is on view at the Saint Louis Art Museum. This newly acquired artwork marries modernist abstract design with an evocative, but simple narrative in a scene drawn from the artist’s childhood memories. It is a fine example of African-American domesticity, for which he is best known.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the national holiday set aside for the remembrance of the man and his acts. It is a cold day, but also a bright day here in Saint Louis. I re-watched Selma last night, the story of the fight for the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Led by King, the story centers on the lead-up to the march from Selma to Montgomery. The cast led by David Oyelowo (King) portrays a virtual who’s-who of American Civil Rights leadership. In the movie, the political tactics employed by King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the white reaction to these tactics form the central story of the movie. King’s personal life is also a major theme. Some of the violence of that time is terrifyingly portrayed. What we don’t see or rather hear are any of King’s lofty speeches, I was surprised to learn. Director Ava DuVernay was forced to paraphrase many of those iconic words that are owned by the MLK estate, those words had already been licensed to a potential Spielberg biopic. Selma was critically well received, except for at last year’s Oscars. Snubbed, it received only one Oscar for the song, Glory. This year, in true Jim Clark fashion, the Oscars have doubled down and nominated no black artists.

Glory mentions Saint Louis by way of Ferguson and not in a good way. The Michael Brown shooting was a tragedy here that should have acted as a wakeup call for Saint Louis, instead, it sparked a national debate. Black men are still being shot by the police, at an alarming rate, at least now though many more incidents are being scrutinized and not just hushed-up and swept under the rug as they once were. I imagine though that just like Selma, over fifty years ago any change for the better is not so much a reflection of anyone’s change of heart, but is due as much from the introduction of video. Any change for the better is still good, no matter how it is wrought. It is a cold, but sunny MLK day here today. Let’s pray that this sunshine portends brighter days to come.

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