The same issues regarding equality, race and police brutality that were prevalent in the 1950’s and 60’s are still the same issues we battle, today. History notes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for spearheading the civil rights movement with countless others, and ultimately ending segregation. Some of the major players were only in their youth, and fortunately, the spirit of that generation has repeated itself today with the call for action event, #MLKNOW.

Groundbreaking film director Ryan Coogler gathered celebrity heavyweights Chris Rock, J. Cole, Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Anika Noni Rose and many others to relentlessly aim to push the movement forward. With the tonality of the past, the #MLKnow event held in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday at Riverside Church in Harlem, New York, resonated with those who need an answer for what to do today.


Actor, activist, and icon, Harry Belafonte stood firm on the podium while relaying his message. He emphasized that it was the youth then, and it is the youth now, who have to focus on uniting to tackle the inequality in society and the detrimental treatment of blacks, and minorities alike, all over the country. As he glared out over the crowd he illustrated what his last encounter with Dr. King was like.

Their conversation was about how their generation was already in flames when Dr.King said, “Well, I guess we’ll have to be firefighters.”

Belafonte ended raising one question, “Where do we go from here?”

The crowd sat engulfed in silence consciously thinking about what actions were needed to proceed, in hopes that we won’t have to ask this question in another 50 years.

We need change. But how?

The next portion of #MLKnow posed an open and intimate conversation between two young and outspoken brothers, Ryan Coogler and J. Cole, on the HOW:


1. Don’t Be Numb

In opening up on his personal battle of overcoming numbness, J.Cole talked about how the youth today are saturated with so much bad news they often cut their emotions off.   Truth: If you’re emotionally disconnected from what’s happening then you will never feel inclined to do anything about it. Once you open yourself to the realness what’s occurring you won’t be able to stay silent. Emotion evokes the voice of change.

2. Keep The Dialogue Going

It’s in the news, on the internet, in the newspaper…. it’s everywhere. Coogler and Cole agreed that there’s no way to ignore what’s happening. Truth: It’s healthy and important for us to keep these conversations going after the momentous events are over. It won’t do ourselves or Dr.King’s legacy any justice by staying silent. The St. John’s University alum suggested that this entails uniting and marching in the hoods around America and not just rallying in Washington DC.


3. Change Begins With Reflecting Inward

It’s true, we all want to blame the system and advocate for change without being the change that we seek first. Truth: Starting at the root is starting with the man in the mirror and taking responsibility. It’s vital to stand on what we know and being morally compelled when it comes to the choices we make. It will either harm or better ourselves, our brothers and sisters and our entire community.

4. Find The Balance

While agreeing with Cole, the Creed director took things a step further in saying that there needs to be balance. Truth: The work that lies ahead requires that we work toward resolving the inhumanity in society while working on ourselves. He referenced ‘one hand washing the other,’ in saying that the two work together for the greater purpose.


For the full experience on what the conversation was like check out the footage from #MLKnow below!

About The Author Myrtis Thweatt

23. Creator. St. John's Alumni.

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