The one. The first. The blueprint. When people think of Los Angeles, California, many different things come to mind. The beautiful beaches, Hollywood, celebrities galore and the Los Angeles Dodgers all have a permanent place in the city of Los Angeles. The most iconic and symbolic representation of the City of Angeles is the Los Angeles Lakers. Originally founded in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Lakers franchise moved to California in 1960. The one-way ticket to Los Angeles for the franchise brought the most important player to ever wear the purple and gold (royal blue and white initially) to Los Angeles; #22 Elgin Gay Baylor. Baylor, a product of Washington D.C. transcended the game of basketball with not only his natural on-court talent but his creativity and his ability to be great EVERYTIME he stepped on the hardwood. Drafted to the Lakers out of Seattle University in the post-George Mikan era, Baylor was able to fill a void in the franchise created by Mikan’s retirement. Baylor’s first year in the National Basketball Association would see him win not only the NBA Rookie Of the Year, but he would also be named Co-MVP of the All-Star Game while also being named to the ALL NBA First Team. His rookie season would be a preview to the future of unmatched exploits that he would display on the hardwood wearing a Lakers uniform in both in the cities of Minneapolis and Los Angeles. April 10, 2018, Elgin released his personal memoir “Hang Time: My Life In Basketball” to the world. This memoir gives the reader a true glimpse into what made Elgin Baylor a great basketball player and how life experiences from a society rooted in racism didn’t hinder him from achieving his goals but pushed him to excel beyond the limits created by segregation and limited opportunity. Reading Baylor’s words about his days as a youth in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C., his recounting of acts of racism against his sister and father show not only the effect it had on him individually but it also put into perspective how awful racism was for black people in an area of the country that was not one of the Confederate states.
“Integration has become law, but how do you legislate against hate?” – Elgin Baylor
That quote from Elgin Baylor may be the most powerful words written in his memoir. One, this quote shows how hate outweighed legislative laws created to create a land of equality. Two, these words are still relevant sixty plus years later as hate is still existent in many places where laws would indicate otherwise.
“I am a human being.” – Elgin Baylor, 1959
1968 would see Dr. Martin Luther King Jr come to Memphis, TN leading a strike with sanitation workers of the city that demanded equal treatment to their white co-workers and to be treated as a human being. The adopted mantra for this march by King and the sanitation workers was “I Am A Man.” In 1959 Elgin Baylor made the decision to not play in an NBA game after being refused accommodations at a hotel in Charleston, West Virginia. Before Muhammad Ali, Baylor made the ultimate statement on the highest platform as an athlete, understanding that being treated as a human being was worth more than any NBA paycheck he would receive. Baylor made this stand at a time when the NBA operated on an unwritten “quota” system that limited the number of black players on teams. Despite the ignorance and hate-filled actions of that night and many other instances in his life, Baylor achieved in ways that had not been seen before in the NBA.
The greatness of Baylor as a Laker was validated by the one who had a courtside seat to every game from the teams initial move to Los Angeles; the late great Chick Hearn. Hearn the play-by-play announcer for the Lakers saw every legend to wear the purple and gold uniform; Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, James Worthy, Jamaal Wilkers and the list to continue, but the greatest of them all according to Hearn was Elgin Baylor. The number of honors Baylor finished his career with are outstanding and one would need a scroll to read them in totality.
Elgin Baylor Career Accomplishments
11 Time NBA All-Star (1959–1965, 1967–1970)
NBA All-Star Game MVP (1959)
10 Time All-NBA First Team (1959–1965, 1967–1969)
NBA Rookie of the Year (1959)
NBA 35th Anniversary Team
NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
Jersey retired by Los Angeles Lakers (22)
NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player (1958)
Helms Foundation Player of the Year (1958)
Consensus First-Team All-American (1958)
Consensus Second-Team All-American (1957)
Led NCAA in rebounding (1957)
Jersey retired by Seattle University (22)
NBA Finals Record 61 points (single-game scoring record)
The pinnacle of Laker greatness has been defined by the ultimate honor from the organization; being immortalized in statue form forever. April 6, 2018, the statue of Elgin Baylor was revealed to the world in front of the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. With Laker royalty and Laker fans on hand to pay homage to the living legend that carried the franchise on his back from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, Baylor’s day was a live memoir for those on hand of the journey he took in life in becoming a man and a basketball legend.
“Hang Time” shows how the combination of God-given ability, humility, perseverance and hard work created the first and most important Laker legend Elgin Baylor. The statue of Elgin Baylor immortalizes his on-court greatness and the accomplishments and statistical records he amassed show the completeness of his game. Los Angeles wouldn’t be Los Angeles without the Lakers and the Lakers wouldn’t be in Los Angeles without Elgin Baylor. Simple math. #EB22
Dom Kennedy has blessed summer 2018 with the release of “Addicted To The Underground.” Nine tracks of summer madness from Liemert Park’s King, “Addicted To The Underground” provides the perfect sound track for summer days in the City of Angels and perfect nights while cruising the 405 headed to the beach for a night of sand and waves. Check out “Addicted To The Underground” here.
• The Education of a Negro Cpl. | Roman Duckworth Jr. | Ryan Culver
• First List | FBI Agent Lee | AZ Productions
• Power Forward | Keith | JusBFilms
• Judicial Indiscretion | Hosea | Samaraha
• Disobedience | Coach Bradley | New York Film Academy
Buick Human Highlight Reel Commercial NCAA 2011 Sports
There are many routes to success in life. For every successful person, no two streets are alike; one can attribute many factors to forward, progressive movement. Hailing from Indianapolis, Indiana, actor and music producer Dario Lee has achieved tremendous success in his careers in both film/television and music. Driven with a passion for success that stems from GOD given talent, humility and hard work, Lee’s continued path of excellence is an inspiration for everybody to see that how genuinely investing in yourself yields unlimited returns and endless opportunities. Lee recently spoke with ESHE about his career and upcoming projects.
ESHE Magazine: What inspires you daily in your life as an actor?
Dario Lee: Well, when I first moved to Los Angeles my very first role on camera was a principal role for Buick and The NCAA which was a National SAG commercial shown during the College Basketball National championship on all major sports channels (ESPN, CBS Sports, Fox Sports,etc.). I really didn’t have any aspirations or inspiration for acting kinda fell into acting due to being behind the camera, taking direction and seeing the results of the work done which inspired me to begin the journey as an actor.
ESHE Magazine: One of the greatest things about being an actor is the process in which you become a character or characters. From your first time reading a script to you playing the character in front of a camera, describe your process in becoming the person created in writing.
Dario Lee: That’s wild cause I literally finished shooting “The Education of a Negro” where I played cpl. Roman Duckworth jr. ; an army cpl that was murdered by the police for not moving to the back of the bus in Taylorsville Mississippi. Duckworth was mistaken as a freedom rider yet he was on military leave in route to visit his wife who was expecting to give birth to their sixth child. Gathering all that information put me in the same state of mind of where he was at the time and how to play that character out. Imagining being excited, nervous, confused, offended and militant all at one time before eventually being murdered by police is how I understood how to play Cpl. Roman Duckworth jr. or any character I take up, by interpretation.
ESHE Magazine: You have appeared in many different films, videos, commercials, and television shows. Do you prepare for different genres differently or do you have the same approach?
Dario Lee: I prepare the exact same way to every role with prayer and approach the situation differently because you really don’t know what the director could come up with on the spot; he or she may have a creative epiphany on set that may change the whole scene, script or even character so my approach is treaded upon softly to the directors discretion.
ESHE Magazine: What is the best advice you have received in life, which has helped you in your career?
Dario Lee: The best advice I have received in life is that Time Is God. While visiting my grandfather in Akron Ohio, on his deathbed, he had a cross and pocket watch necklace around his neck and I remember him looking at me while rubbing the cross and pocket watch together telling me these two go together. My grandfather was an ex-gang leader in his younger years and preacher towards the end of his life and he was full of wisdom. In my interpretation of him rubbing the watch and cross together, I gather that everything happens in Gods time. When you think about it, it is. The only thing in life that we do not control is time, yet time controls us. I believe God gives me all my abilities and controls all my limbs to act, make music, play basketball or etc… That’s who I count as my agent and source cause in a blink of an eye all of it can end. Time is in control of me, not me in control of it. Do we control a car accident or national disasters? Unexpected things happen that we have no control over that trumps what we may deem as our time yet when I give intotime I learn I don’t control it; it controls me. That’s why Time is God has been the best life advice I have ever received.
ESHE Magazine: You have currently begun work on a major new project, “The Education of A Negro.” Talk about this project and what inspired the writers of this film and how important it will be to the world from a historical perspective.
Dario Lee: Wow, this film is something else. The historical figures shown through Americanized television, schools and books have forever been condensed to a few when their so many important stories we have never heard. The fact that this film story focuses on major stories that were swept under rugs is so pivotal. The first day on set I arrived a little early to step in on the filming of the Emmit Till scene and it was so powerful that I had to leave the room. To think of all the stories that are being shown and depicted in this film gives me so much joy and gratefulness to be working with so many genius minded writers, producers, actors, and directors. There will be the story and depictions of silent stories of Emmit Till, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carol Denise McNair, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and Cpl. Roman Duckworth Jr. These stories are so important for the community and youth; like I said that are not being taught this. I’m glad that these stories are finally being brought to the big screen February 2019, well overdue.
ESHE Magazine: Describe your outlook on life in three words
There is a saying, “One step forward, three back.” It seems as if the African American community is about to do this very thing. The bizarre part about African Americans doing this is that they have done it before over the same issue. The issue is the movie Super Fly. In the early 70’s African Americans were still angry from the 1960’s and were poised to do something about their plight in the USA. Hollywood released Super Fly and everything changed. After the powerful African American response to Black Panther Hollywood is attempting to do the same in 2018. The question is, “Will the African American community fall for the foolishness?”
The original Sig Shore production of Super Fly was a masterpiece. Critics will bash the impact on the community but Super Fly was just plain cool. Ron O’Neal’s portrayal of Priest in the movie was a masterpiece of acting. The sound score done by Curtis Mayfield was brilliant. The acting, writing and music are what made Super Fly so devastating to the African American community. I once heard a man say, “Black men went into the movie theaters to see Super Fly with Afros and came out with perms.” This statement sums up the impact of the movie on the African American community.
I have listened to the Super Fly soundtrack. The song No Thing On Me is a powerful attack on drug use. The lyrics tell people to enjoy a natural high so you can see things as they are. No Thing on Me should be an anthem used today to get people of all races to kick drug habits. There are good points about the original Super Fly but they are outweighed by the negative cultural impact. Super Fly made the hustling and drug scene look wonderful. In the words of Christian motivational speaker Ruby Wray, a woman who lived during the release of the original Super Fly, “Almost every black man I knew wanted to be like Priest. Even those who didn’t look like him, Ron O’Neal, tried to be him.” The after effects of Super Fly on the African American community were and are obvious. Progress on a social level stopped and it took almost a decade to shake off the cultural impact of Super Fly.
Are African Americans going to fall for the Okie Doke again? Black Panther had African Americans on call. Many people started wearing African clothes again. Some African American females let go of hair weave and are growing their hair natural. It seems as if the African American community may be waking up. Will this shaking off of sleep be disrupted by a knockoff of an original, almost fatal blow? Will the African American community allow Hollywood to send them back to sleep, possibly for the final time?
The 2018 Super Fly screenplay was written by Alex Tse and directed by Director X. Tse is Chinese and X was born and raised in Canada. Why would these two people have the African American communities best interest in mind? How can these two people know what it is to be African American or know how African Americans think? Yes X looks black and has directed music videos. Whoopee. If you look at any modern music video there is a high chance that it reeks of crass materialism. Materialism is what has driven the African American community insane. How can a Chinese man know how black people feel or think? It would be like me trying to write a movie about the Chinese Triads. This has me asking, “Why now, and why at all?” The previous questions are ones all African Americans should be asking.
There is a chance that African Americans will go see the 2018 Super Fly and come out conscious about the society they live in. There is a greater chance African Americans will go into the theater and be enthralled into oblivion by the cars, women and black men chasing the mythical “Big Score.” I will go on record stating: If the African American community goes back to sleep it will be for good.
Kam Patrice, a native of Milwaukee Wisconsin, started gracing the runways as a model four years ago and has continuously made her mark in the industry. Something that initially started off as something for her to scratch off of her bucket list eventually became a fueled passion. Eyes that talk and an aura that commands the room, Kam has not only separated herself from others in the industry but she has created her own pathway. Wanting to be the face of hair care, make-up, and clothing lines, she has laid a solid foundation for success. Recently she released her second calendar, a candid year calendar of exclusive shots, displaying her unique beauty and passion for the camera. A percentage of profits from the sales of her second calendar will go to Autism Speaks. Visit KamPatrice.com to check out more.
Photographers: Brandon Best, De Nada, Michael Lawson, Nate Anderson & Steve White
Makeup Artists: Keyona Bullock Jenna Hayes Keisha Roper
With the NBA Playoffs in full swing, the relationship with hip-hop music and basketball are on full display. Whether you’re inside an NBA Arena, watching a game on television or playing an intense game of NBA 2K on XBOX or PlayStation, hip-hop artist and their music are as visible in each of these aspects as the players are. There has always been the saying that ballplayers want to be rappers and rappers want to be ball players. Over the years there have been many NBA players that have stepped into the booth, dropped bars and released albums. Dana Barros, Chris Webber, Allen Iverson and Cedric Ceballos to name a few have all recorded albums that were released during their careers. The relationship between hoops and hip-hop presented a unique company of two individuals from both sides. NBA Legend and basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal and hip-hop legend and executive mogul Percy Miller a.k.a Master P, a.k.a. The Ice Cream Man hold the distinction as being the only two people to have ever played in the NBA that have also had albums that have reached platinum status. The mid to late 1990s was a time when hip-hop began to become a bigger part of NBA entertainment. Hip-hop stars frequented NBA games and NBA players were commonly seen in music videos on BET, MTV, vh1 and The Box (do you remember the box) either lacing tracks or simply making cameos. The 1998 and 1999 NBA Preseason would see Master P have the opportunity to continue a hoop dream deferred ( Miller attended the University of Houston on a basketball scholarship) by attending training camp and playing NBA preseason games with the Charlotte Hornets in 1998 and the Toronto Raptors in 1999. Shaquille O’Neal, then a Los Angeles Laker, had by that time released four studio albums, his first being Shaq Diesel (released in 1993) which went on to reach platinum status. By the time Master P had touched an NBA floor in 1998 he had two platinum albums under his belt (three by 1999 when he was in a Raptors uniform) along with game to legitimize his quest for an NBA roster spot. O’Neal and Miller both had the success which so many musicians and athletes have sought for so long; the opportunity to not only pursue a career in both music or sports but to also be highly successful in that realm.
The college experience is the training ground and life teacher for many people as it is then they began to formulate the ideas and plans for success and future goals in life. Each college provides a unique experience to its students, but none hail in comparison to the ones experienced by those that choose to attend an HBCU. Historically Black Colleges and Universities were born out of necessity, as blacks in the United States of America had no options for education other than the ones which they created for themselves. The necessity and commitment to excellence and achievement with its students, HBCUs have produced a wealth of graduates that have excelled in many different areas of education, business, athletics and medicine to name a few. ESHE Magazine wants to recognize four highly successful individuals that have graduated from Historically Black Colleges across the country.
Travis King | Southern University Hometown: Memphis, TN (currently reside in Dallas, TX)
Major: Business Management
Bio: 20+ years in the Amateur and Professional Basketball Industry, Travis King has negotiated over $500 million in contracts with the NBA, FIBA, and Shoe Companies. Formerly as AAU’s National Boys’ Basketball Manager, Travis garnered key relationships on the grassroots level with Division 1 Coaches, major brands and shoe companies, as well as with NBA personnel and scouts.
As a certified NBPA player agent, Mr. King is the Basketball Divisions lead recruiter and point person for the Rookie Pre-Draft program.
Travis was a 3-year letterman for the Southern University Men’s basketball team in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Quote That Travis Lives By: “The more you learn, the more you earn!” – A.D. Middlebrook (my grandfather)
Thomas Williams Jr., PhD | Jackson State University Hometown: Memphis, TN
Major: Educational Administration with a concentration in Curriculum and Instruction
Dr. Thomas Williams grew up in Memphis Tennessee. From an early age he knew that he wanted to be an educator. After graduating high school he moved to Jackson Mississippi to pursue a degree in early childhood education. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree he began teaching with an urban school district in Mississippi. After teaching several years Dr. Williams realized that he wanted to explore opportunities in early childhood leadership and policy. This passion led him to obtain his Educational Specialist in psychometrics as well as his Master’s degree and Ph.D in educational administration from Jackson State University. Thomas Williams, PhD was also selected to participate with Harvard University Graduate School of Education Management and Leadership certificate program. Dr. Williams currently works in Washington DC as an early childhood leader. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and listening to music.
Quote That Thomas Lives By: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk…. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” —Mark Zuckerberg
Sherice Janaye Nelson, PhD | Stillman College, University of the District of Columbia, Howard University Hometown: Oakland, California
Major: History & English, Public Management, Political Science
Bio: Sherice Janaye Nelson is a graduate of the illustrious Howard University. Here she received her Doctorate of Philosophy in Political Science specializing in International Relations, Black Politics, and American Government. She is a Hillary Clinton scholar as her dissertation discussed the leadership styles of Clinton and Dr. Madeleine Albright respectively. Her work has been published in the Journal of International Relations and Affairs Group, and she is currently working on research that shows how to properly support Historical Black Colleges and Universities. Dr. Nelson currently operates her own consulting firm Dr. Janaye Executes, which specializes in idea development, strategic planning, and project execution. She is a professor and most recently taught at St. Mary’s College and Las Positas College. She earned her Masters of Public Administration at the University of the District of Columbia and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a dual degree in History and English from Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Quote That Sherice Lives By: But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33 KJV
Jason Pruitt | Calhoun Community College/Clark Atlanta University/Nova Southeastern University Hometown: Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Major: Associates – Communications/ B.A. Mass Media Arts (TV Broadcasting)/Masters– Educational Technology
Bio: Currently the head women’s basketball coach at the University of La Verne, NCAA III.
Jason was most recently the coach at the University of Antelope Valley. While at UAV, Pruitt led the Pioneers to a 2016-2017 California Pacific Conference Championship, in the team’s inaugural season. Pruitt also led the Pioneers to a win over Pepperdine University at Firestone Fieldhouse. The Pioneers finished the 2016-2017 season with a 19-7 record (11-3 in the CalPac Conference) with one All-American, two First Team All-Conference players, one Second Team All-Conference player, one Honorable Mention player, and the Defensive Player of the Year. Coach Pruitt was also fortunate to be honored as the CalPac Conference’s Coach of the Year.
Prior to Antelope Valley, Pruitt spent three seasons as head coach of the Bethesda University Flames – out of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) – where he guided them to a record-breaking run during his tenure and a No. 8 ranking in the final NCCAA standings for the 2015-16 season.
While at Bethesda, Pruitt guided the Flames to consecutive NCCAA National Tournament appearances and was twice named NCCAA Western Region Coach of the Year. Pruitt’s players also excelled in the classroom, with five members earning NCCAA Scholar-Athlete accolades.
Prior to joining Bethesda, the Leighton, Ala., native was an assistant men’s basketball coach at NCAA Division III California Institute of Technology, where he helped recruit and secure one of the best recruiting classes in Caltech’s history. Before moving to Southern California, Pruitt was a coach at the University School of Nova Southeastern University where he and his team finished the 2011-2012 season as Class 4A District Champions with the best record in school history (25-4) and ranked No. 1 in the state of Florida for eight-consecutive weeks.
Pruitt is a decorated athlete from Northwest Alabama where he was a standout basketball player and track star at Colbert County High School in Leighton. After high school, Pruitt played junior college basketball at nationally-ranked John C. Calhoun Community College. During his sophomore campaign, the Warhawks were the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Alabama State Champs and went on to play in the in the NJCAA National Championship game. He later signed with Division I Mississippi Valley State University where he played one season before ending his collegiate basketball career at Kentucky State University.
Coach Pruitt holds an Associate’s degree from John C. Calhoun, a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media Arts from Clark Atlanta University and a Master’s in Educational Technology from Nova Southeastern.
Before Pruitt professionally returned to the hardwood as a coach, he spent nearly a decade working in the media industry where he served as a manager, producer, editor and videographer at various CBS, NBC, and ABC television affiliates. Coach Pruitt has applied this experience in the classroom by teaching diverse courses on digital journalism, media technology, communication, and sports marketing at local high schools and colleges.
Quote That Jason Lives By: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ― Rob Siltanen
It was summer. 1993. I was 7 years old living in Hoover Alabama, a suburb of the most segregated city in America in 1963, “Bombingham” as it was called. My mother subscribed me to the Scholastic Book club when she realized I enjoyed going to the local public library. As I scanned for a book to read, she suggested that I get a book on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I knew who he was. I knew there was a holiday observed in his honor. I knew he had a dream. In my hometown of Memphis Tennessee, I knew there was a museum built at the hotel that some white man shot and killed him. She told me that he helped change the world. I agreed with my mother’s suggestion. A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr. by David Adler arrived a few weeks later. As I had done previously with my other books, I ran back to the room I shared with my two brothers. While they were playing our Super Nintendo, I began reading about this young Baptist minister who engaged in protests during the times of when my parents were my age. I recall words I didn’t understand; civil disobedience, nonviolent resistance, Nobel Peace Prize, and then assassination. Although I had visited the National Civil Rights Museum two years earlier and now the place of my employment, it was the page towards the back of the book that I became numb and devastated. After sitting on my bed developing tears in my eyes, I ran into the kitchen where my parents were preparing dinner and wrapped my arms around my mother. As I dropped the book on the floor, I cried and continued to ask her “Why did that man shoot Dr. King? Why?” She sat me on her lap and told me “Ryan, Dr. King was a good man. He and others fought and gave their lives so America could be a better place for all of its people. But, there are some people who didn’t like Dr. King because of the color of his skin.” I understood but I didn’t. As I got older, living in the south and learning the true narrative of people of color, a narrative that has not always been taught in the most considerate and respectful way, it began to mold me into who I am today. One of my teachers in the 4th grade forced me and my other classmates to build a Southern plantation for a project and be tested on “Gone with the Wind”. The first impressions to an innocent mind can have an everlasting effect. These reflections I share with you on the commemoration of one of the greatest tragedies in our history is personal and a spiritual journey.
Once I realized I wasn’t going to be the next Stephen Curry or DJ Jazzy Jeff, I really began to become fascinated with Dr. King, his writings, his speeches, his personal life, and of course his mysterious assassination. From Montgomery to Selma, from Letter from a Birmingham Jail to when he publicly opposed the Vietnam War. It wasn’t until I took an upper division history course at the University of Tennessee-Martin in 2007 by one of my most influential professors and mentors Dr. David Barber, I learned that Dr. King was not the “I Have a Dream” man that we observe every third Monday in January. Reading the Fire Next Time, Soul On Ice, and The Souls of Black Folks all in one semester, I again began to evolve. I began to learn the differences between printed history and researched history. Fact vs. Myth. Dr. King indeed was a radical just as Malcolm, Stokely, Huey, and Fred Hampton had been. After Selma, his life would become exhausting, riddled with stress, and somewhat pressured by the new Black Power movement led by young and hungry Black militants who were no longer willing to use nonviolent resistance. The world was changing. David Ruffin and the Temptations took the process conks out of their hair and wore it natural. Muhammad Ali formed the seed that Colin Kaepernick would flourish from on Sunday mornings. Dr. King left the vitriol racism in the Jim Crow South and attempted to apply his tactics in the north such as Chicago. It was there he realized racial discrimination was not a southern thing, it was an American thing. He was bewildered at how the overwhelming amounts of poverty affected Americans across the country. He was perplexed at the reality of the United States government spending billions of dollars on military defense when the citizens of this country were well below the poverty line. As he had done for jobs and freedom during the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, he planned a Poor People’s Campaign for the nation’s capital as well. Only this time, he planned to have 500,000 Americans build tents and force the government to close tax loopholes and helps its citizens domestically. This, unfortunately, is what likely cost him his life. Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference were in the middle of planning the Poor People’s Campaign, when two unsung men were killed in the back of a garbage truck on a rainy afternoon in the city I was born, on the banks of the Mississippi, the city in which the “Dream” would be killed.
A few weeks after I cried at the assassination photograph in my Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. children’s book, my father took my brother’s and me to Blockbuster Video. While my brothers each picked the video game of their choice and I chose Burt Reynolds Cop and a Half, my dad chose a documentary titled At the River I Stand. He suggested that I watch this film with him once we got home. This documentary told the story of why Dr. King came to Memphis and eventually lost his life at the Lorraine Motel. It was a specific yet grisly story that still horrifies me to this current day. Thursday, February 1, 1968. The day of the spark in which Dr. King would come to Memphis and senselessly lose his life two months later. In East Memphis, two men, Robert Walker Jr. and Echol Cole had been Memphis sanitation workers for a few months. That Thursday was a steady hard rain in Memphis. As the crew began to return to their dump headquarters on Shelby Drive, Walker and Cole got into the back of the truck to shelter themselves. After a malfunction in the wiring, the trash compactor triggered by accident. Mr. Cole was further in the truck than Robert Walker and stuck out his hand to be pulled out. Robert Walker likely could have escaped but both men locked hands with each other and Walker was pulled in and both were crushed to death. While the Memphis press all but ignored the tragic accident, it welcomed the birth of Elvis Presley’s daughter Lisa Marie into the world. Because of the men’s death, Memphis sanitation workers formally went on strike against the city. The Reverend James Lawson would invite Dr. King to give a speech on behalf of the strikers. He would come and receive a warm and open reception from Memphis on March 18, 1968. So much that he volunteered to return to Memphis ten days later to march. When he arrived back on the 28th, there was a restless crowd awaiting him to join the marchers at the front. When the march turned on Main Street, there was looting at the back of the march. As the violence got worse, Dr. King was forced to leave the march that he had not organized, but would later be blamed for. This was critical for him because he was due in Washington in the next few weeks for the Poor People’s Campaign. The national media asserted that Dr. King had lost his magic. That if he couldn’t be successful in Memphis Tennessee, then how would he thrive in Washington D.C.? An hour after the march, another unsung martyr would lose his life. Sixteen-year-old Larry Payne, a junior at Mitchell High School marched with Dr. King that morning. After returning home briefly, he and some of his other classmates were caught in the middle of the looting. Memphis Police officer Leslie Dean Jones found Larry hiding in the South Memphis housing projects Fowler Homes and demanded he come out. According to a dozen witnesses, Larry appeared with his hands above his head. L.D. Jones shoved his shotgun into Larry’s stomach and fired point blank range. Larry’s mother, Mrs. Lizzie Payne tried to approach her son lying in a pool of blood, only to be met by her son’s murderer. Jones stuck his shotgun into her stomach, telling her to “Get back, Nigger.” Larry died on the way to the hospital. Officer Jones stated that Larry ran at him with a knife, an accusation that the same dozen witnesses disagreed with. Nevertheless, L.D. Jones was not indicted or even arrested. The next day, Dr. King vowed to return to Memphis to assure that he could still lead a nonviolent campaign, as he had done in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma. He would return on April 3, 1968.
Since 2011, I’ve had the privilege of working at the National Civil Rights Museum, the site of Dr. King’s assassination. Working at this empowering institution has given me the humble opportunity to speak to all walks of life that our exhibitions interpret. While I’ve met some incredible activists, athletes, and other celebrities, the most challenging was when Dr. King’s youngest child, the Reverend Dr. Bernice King entered the museum. I always had a great admiration for her and her parents and how she has preserved her father’s legacy. But I questioned myself on telling her a history that she already knew… AT the place of her father’s tragic death. It was by far my most humbling experience of my life standing in the spot on the second floor of the balcony of the Lorraine Motel with her gazing across the street into the area a loud rifle shot was fired from. I felt grief, anger, and sorrow. I began to tell her of the moment Dr. King arrived back in Memphis on April 3, 1968 on flight 381 on Eastern Airlines. Before arriving however, there was a bomb threat that delayed him by an hour. After arriving in Memphis, he was transported to the Lorraine Motel, a black-owned and prestigious hotel that catered to legends such as Sam Cooke, Jackie Robinson, Aretha Franklin, and Lena Horne. The Lorraine was owned by power couple Walter and Loree Bailey, who renovated the hotel and motel several times during the peaking years of the Civil Rights Movement. For $13 a night, African-Americans could relax and feel safe at the Lorraine. Of course, Dr. King, on his three visits to the Lorraine, would never be charged for his stay. As he met with his staff and local Memphis leaders including a young Black Power splinter group The Invaders, King began to feel ill. He suffered from laryngitis and developed flu-like symptoms. There was also tornado warnings in the great Memphis area which he felt would affect the attendance at that night’s rally at the Mason Temple. He requested that Reverend Ralph Abernathy, later UN Ambassador Andrew Young and a young Reverend Jesse Jackson attend in his place. He would catch up on some rest. When the three men arrived, they were stunned to see 3,000 people standing up as they walked in. Then the ovation grew quiet as they noticed Dr. King was not with them. Abernathy leaned to Andrew Young and laughed “this is Martin’s crowd. We have to get him here immediately.” He rushed to the nearest phone and called room 306 at the Lorraine Motel and urged Dr. King to get to the Temple quick. “The news cameras are all here. This will be shown nationally.” Dr. King arrived in 25 minutes. Abernathy delivered an unusually long biography of his oldest friend before Dr. King reached the podium. He had no notes. In an ode to Hip Hop, he planned to “freestyle” his remarks for the next forty minutes. He spoke of the strike. He spoke his commitment of leading a nonviolent march in Memphis. He spoke of his determination to reach Washington. He then spoke of various events during his 12-year tenure in the Civil Rights Movement. The afternoon he was stabbed by a deranged woman in Harlem. The Sit-ins. Bull Connor and Birmingham. Bloody Sunday and Selma. And then it happened. As the shutters of the church were slamming because of the tornado winds, he gazed into his audience and said “I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man!
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!” He collapsed into the arms of his staff. The time was 10:30 PM. Dr. King had just delivered his final address to the world.
Every morning as I begin my day, I walk through the museum to remind myself that not only is this is my job. But this my life and purpose. The men, women, and children. Black and White. The courage and sacrifices. So that people like myself and others can keep this rich history alive. That the future generations know that we are not makers of history, but that we are made by history.
And as I approach the room that Dr. King was taken from us, I remember that he was one man. A son, father, husband, who was full of vulnerability like all of us. The day after he delivered the most emotional, yet inspiring speech in my life, Dr. King was in the most joyous mood that he had been in weeks. When Andrew Young returned from Federal court to have an injunction lifted, he threw him onto a bed in Room 202 of the Lorraine and began child-like pillow fight. After wrestling themselves into an appetite, Dr. King went upstairs around 5:30 PM to his room to get dressed for a soul food dinner at Memphis minister’s home Samuel “Billy” Kyles. Dr. King reappeared on the balcony at 5:55 PM. He spoke to Jesse Jackson, whom he scolded the weekend before at an SCLC meeting in Atlanta. He told Jesse he wanted him to come to dinner with him and that he needed to put on a necktie. Jesse called back up to say “Doc, a prerequisite for dinner is an appetite and I have that.” The men laughed. Jesse introduced Dr. King to Ben Branch, a saxophonist who was going to play that night after dinner. Dr. King knew him already. He personally requested Mr. Branch to play “Precious Lord”, his favorite spiritual. “Play it real pretty.” Dr. King’s chauffeur called up and told him to grab his topcoat. Before Dr. King could reply, he was lifted upward off the ground and thrown back violently to the floor on the balcony. Everyone who was in the courtyard thought it was a car backfiring. Then they looked and saw Dr. King’s shoes dangling on the balcony and rushed to his aide. There was a large and mortal wound in the right side of his lower jaw and neck. Ralph Abernathy thought Dr. King recognized him for a few seconds, but he never spoke a word. Almost immediately, the Memphis Police Department was running toward the Lorraine balcony. In that instant, South African photographer Joseph Louw took the photo of Dr. King’s aides pointing west in the direction of where they felt the shot came from. After being taken from the balcony to St. Joseph’s Hospital, now St. Jude, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was pronounced dead at 7:05 PM central standard time. His death wasn’t the only to haunt the Lorraine. Mrs. Loree Bailey, the co-owner of the motel began shaking when she saw Dr. King lying on the balcony. Hours later, a blood vessel popped in her brain and she would fall into a coma before dying five days later, the day Dr. King was eulogized in Atlanta.
Riots and urban uprisings burned across the United States. The apostle of nonviolence was gone. Who could have done such a thing? James Earl Ray, a petty criminal with a 2nd-grade education and at best a poor shot with a rifle, with a scope that still has never been sighted? From a window where no eyewitness picked him out of a lineup? Could James Earl Ray changed Dr. King’s room at the Lorraine Motel on April 3? Could he have ordered the Memphis Public Works have obscuring bushes and grass removed in the middle of the night after the assassination, where several eyewitnesses saw gun smoke and a man moving rather quickly when the shot was fired? Could Ray have successfully removed three African-American officers from their post at the Memphis Fire Station adjacent to the Lorraine Motel? Could James Earl Ray conveniently left his bundle with the alleged murder weapon just 300 feet from the scene of the crime and leave Memphis undetected and arrive in Atlanta, Toronto, and London, with 5 separate aliases of men that looked almost identical to him? 50 years later, these lingering questions still remain. 50 years later, we still don’t have concise answers. While I believe the extensive plot to kill Dr. King goes much further and complex than the likes of James Earl Ray, we must still consider the fear and threat Dr. King caused at the time of his death. Just two months later, Senator Robert F. Kennedy suffered the same fate. The very same principles that Dr. King stood for, men and women are still being ridiculed today. Racism. Poverty. Militarism. Those who hide their prejudiced ways for their patriotism and those who don’t have a decent living wage to take care of their families. Is that why he was murdered? Dr. King died the most hated man on the planet. Today, he is one of the most glorified. Did it take him to be shot down on a balcony of a hotel in Memphis so African-American sanitation workers could live better lives? Is that a dream or a nightmare?