A day of dreams and (virtual) art at the Gantt Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

·3 min read

State Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr. said he’s old enough to remember when Martin Luther King Jr. was a controversial figure within the Black community

“I remember when my father used to debate (his) strategy,” The N.C. legislator from Mecklenburg County said on a virtual discussion panel at Charlotte’s Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture Monday. “(But) Dr. King has become the drum major for all of our aspirations. Too many folks don’t understand that historical context.”

That was one of the aims of the Gantt’s 2022 “Community Dreams” event Monday, celebrating the work and legacy of King on the national holiday in his honor.

Before the event was moved online, Gantt President and CEO David Taylor said the center was “excited to again host a full day of cultural experiences and social discussions in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life. To continue in our tradition of honoring this great man, the day of celebration at the Gantt will be a fun and fulfilling experience for the community at-large.”

The event was held virtually due to increasing health and safety concerns related to COVID-19, in addition to the lingering effects of Sunday’s winter storm that had hit the Charlotte region, and iced over a number of roads.

The Harvey B. Gantt Center hosted a program of virtual events Monday to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. day, ranging from art workshops to a jazz concert.
The Harvey B. Gantt Center hosted a program of virtual events Monday to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. day, ranging from art workshops to a jazz concert.

But that didn’t stop speakers and performers from putting on virtual art workshops, a film screening and a live jazz concert via the center’s YouTube channel, which live-streamed the program from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The film was “Our Friend, Martin,” an animated movie that featured two sixth-grade boys transported back to the time of the civil rights leader and learn important lessons.

There also was an interactive dance performance by Jermaine Nakia Lee that was inspired by the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

‘You have to have faith’

The day’s events concluded with a discussion, “Dream Builders in History,” including Alexander and civil rights pioneer Dorothy Counts-Scoggins and attorney Geraldine Sumter. Moderated by artist and theologian the Rev. de’Angelo Dia, the panelists discussed the struggle for racial justice in their own lives.

“When you do this work, you have to have faith, that there are things that we cannot see that will materialize,” Sumter said. Before she was a lawyer, Sumter was an activist, helping neighbors register to vote when she in her early teens.

The Gantt Center, located in uptown Charlotte, is a multidisciplinary arts institution that works to present, preserve and promote African-American culture.

It offers other arts programming like classes, exhibits and performances.

Exhibits at the Gantt include “Container/Contained: Phil Freelon — Design Strategies for Telling African-American Stories” and “Visual Vanguard: An Exhibition of Contemporary Black Carolina Artists.” Monday was the last scheduled day for the Freelon exhibition.

The Gantt’s galleries are temporarily closed to the public starting Tuesday, Jan. 18, for work on installations. It will reopen Jan. 29.