Marriage Be Hard: Interview with @Kevonstage and @Mrskevonstage

Marriage Be Hard: Interview with @Kevonstage and @Mrskevonstage

Marriage is one of the most important institutions in the lives of believers. Unfortunately it is rarely spoken about beyond the headlines of culture wars in the news or as the excuse some believers hide real conversations about sex behind. A lot of believers have a hard time keeping it real about how hard it is to be married. Kevin and Melissa Fredericks, aka KevOnStage and MrsKevOnStage, rarely hold back on keeping it real in conversations.

With over a million followers on social media (which don’t happen for church folks), they are some of the most busy and influential believers on the internet. Their authenticity and creativity have helped them connect with the “churchy” and unchurched alike. But like all married folks they have had challenges in life and in marriage. Their new book Marriage Be Hard is a candid look at their marriage and the lessons they have learned along the way through reflection, therapy, The Love Hour podcast and real work. They hope to help couples everywhere to get past “just making it” in marriage to thriving through their insights.

UrbanFaith sat down with Kevin and Melissa to talk about their journey and their book. The full interview is above, more information on the book is below.

 

ABOUT MARRIAGE BE HARD

Discover the keys to upholding your vows while staying sane in this hilariously candid guide to relationships, from the husband-and-wife team of comedian Kevin Fredericks and influencer Melissa Fredericks

Growing up, Kevin and Melissa Fredericks were taught endless rules around dating, sex, and marriage, but not a lot about what actually makes a relationship work. When they first got married, they felt alone—like every other couple had perfect chemistry while the two of them struggled. There were conversations that they didn’t know they needed to have, fears that affected how they related to each other, and seasons of change that put their marriage to the test.

Part of their story reads like a Christian fairytale: high school sweethearts, married in college, never sowed any wild oats, with two sons and a thriving marriage. But there’s another side of their story: the night Melissa kicked Kevin out of her car after years of communication problems, the time early in their marriage when Kevin bordered on an emotional affair, the way they’ve used social media and podcasts to conduct a no-holds-barred conversation about forbidden topics like jealousy, divorce, and how to be Christian and sex positive. (Because, as Kevin writes, “Your hormones don’t care about your religious beliefs. Your hormones want you to subscribe to OnlyFans.”)

The Violin Conspiracy: An Interview with Brendan Slocumb

The Violin Conspiracy: An Interview with Brendan Slocumb

From music educator to best selling author Brendan Slocumb has an unexpected journey. But his action packed novel The Violin Conspiracy is a fictional story based on his true life journey. UrbanFaith sat down with Brendan to talk about his book, his faith story, and what stories he wants to tell next. The interview is above. Information on the book is below.

 

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Most classical musicians are white, wealthy, privileged. Not Ray: he’s Black and comes from a single-family household, with a self-centered mother who actively blocks Ray’s aspirations. Only his Grandma Nora seems to care about his love for music. She gives him her old family treasure – a beat-up fiddle that hasn’t been played in eighty years. Ray confronts rampant discrimination from an establishment that believes that Black people cannot emotionally understand the music of dead white Europeans: Blacks should stick to hip hop, Gershwin, and jazz. A college music scholarship, and a professor’s mentorship, nurture Ray’s extraordinary talent and unstoppable ambition.

Then Ray discovers that Grandma Nora’s ancient violin is actually a rare and unique instrument that can take his playing to an entirely new level. The resulting media frenzy catapulted him into a solo violinist’s career. His star rises, but with success comes heartbreak: two lawsuits threaten to rip the violin away from him. In the first, his family claims that the instrument is rightfully theirs; in the second, the slaveholder family of his ancestors declare that Ray’s great-grandfather stole the violin from them. The two claims intertwine. Desperate to keep the violin, Ray makes a bargain that will have far-reaching and devastating consequences.

And then someone – his family? The slaveholder family? The mafia? – steals the violin. Ray has a month to raise five million dollars to pay the ransom before the Tchaikovsky Competition – classical music’s version of the Olympics –  begins, and before the violin disappears forever.

In Moscow, under the glaring lights of musical stardom, Ray will not only compete, but will also discover what happened to the violin that means everything to him.

Derrick Boseman Reflects on His Brother Chadwick’s Faith, Spirituality

Derrick Boseman Reflects on His Brother Chadwick’s Faith, Spirituality

Urban Faith Contributing Writer Maina Mwaura interviewed Derrick Boseman about his late famous brother Chadwick, a man of faith who he says took the gifts that God blessed him with and he multiplied it. Chadwick, 43, died August 2020 of Colon Cancer.


Transcript from the Video:

Maina Mwaura

I can still remember the Friday night that I got the news from my good friend about Chadwick Boseman no longer being here with us. And I can remember thinking for days, wow, so young, so passionate, so incredibly just gifted. And then wondering about his family as we do in many of these cases, which is why it is an honor to be here with his brother this morning, Derrick Boseman. How are you doing?

Derrick Boseman:

All sorts of ways.

Maina Mwaura

It’s a loaded question.

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah, it is.

Maina Mwaura

I mean, it is. How do you handle that loaded question and the emotions and the thoughts that go with that? Fair question?

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah. That’s fair. It’s hard. It’s extremely hard. I think about him throughout the day. Oftentimes when I wake up, that’s the first thing that’s on my mind is him and what happened to him. And why did it happen? I have like breakdowns. Daily. And when I say breakdowns, I mean thoughts will be in my head and it’ll bring me to you know how you start to tear up. And then I’ll usually like, if I’m around people, I’ll catch myself and I’ll stop myself. But if it’s just me, I just let it…

Maina Mwaura

Let it flow.

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah. Yeah.

Maina Mwaura

You guys were close.

Derrick Boseman:

Right.

Maina Mwaura

And it’s one of those things I was doing the research for our time together, man, what was that bond like? Because I mean, even up until the last minute you were there. What was that bond like that we don’t know, we will never know, obviously. But can you give us a sense of what it felt like to call him brother?

Derrick Boseman:

I didn’t see him as Chad the movie star. Yeah. Chadwick is his given name, but we called him Chad. He didn’t even like the name Chadwick. As a little boy he asked my mom, why did she name him Chadwick?

Maina Mwaura:

Are you serious? That’s a name that would carry him too, that’s kind of funny.

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah. I mean that’s his name. And as he grew older, he became fond of the name and it became his Hollywood name or his Hollywood persona, so to speak. But the people who really know him or knew called him Chad.

Maina Mwaura:

What were the growing up years like?

Derrick Boseman:

As his brother?

Maina Mwaura:

Yeah.

Derrick Boseman:

I’m 10 years older. So it was first me being fascinated by him.

Maina Mwaura:

Really?

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah. He’s my second brother. When my first brother came, I’m six. I’m used to being the baby.

Maina Mwaura:

I’ve been there. Those days are over it. Yeah.

Derrick Boseman:

He interrupts my flow. I still love him, but I got to get used to him.

Maina Mwaura:

I’ve been there. Being the oldest.

Derrick Boseman:

I’m just being real. And we real, like tight right now. All of us are, he was just here last week for about five or six days. But when Chad comes, I’m ready to be-

Maina Mwaura:

You’re in charge.

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah, I am. I am. I am. So by the time he’s two or three and I’m 12 or 13, I’m left in charge of the house. If parents are at work all day during the summertime.

Maina Mwaura:

You’re the oldest.

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah. So I’m fixing breakfast. I’m helping him get potty-trained. He’s bending over and I’m wiping his butt literally. I’m brushing his hair. Getting his clothes ready. He’s like my first kid really.

Maina Mwaura:

Wow.

Derrick Boseman:

Though he wasn’t, I mean of course we’re brothers.

Maina Mwaura:

We are the oldest though. I get that. When did you know, as a brother looking in on all of this, that man, there is something here when it comes to him acting? Of course he goes to Howard University, does well there. When did you know, okay, this is going to go pretty far?

Derrick Boseman:

Not just him acting, him doing whatever he wanted to do in life. But as far as the acting is concerned, it was writing at first because he wanted to be a writer and a director. The moment that he said this is what I want to do, that’s when I knew he was going to make it, because he’s just that gifted.

Maina Mwaura:

Wow. When did it go from writing to acting?

Derrick Boseman:

When he got to Howard. Felicia Rashad from the Cosby Show was one of his professors. She suggested that he act.

Maina Mwaura:

Did he want to?

Derrick Boseman:

I mean, he respected her/.

Maina Mwaura:

Obviously. Yeah.

Derrick Boseman:

I don’t know about the want to part. He just followed somebody’s advice.

Maina Mwaura:

Yeah.

Derrick Boseman:

The Bible says that there is wisdom in many counselors. So he followed what she said.

Maina Mwaura:

He was a deeply spiritual man. And it’s one of those things where the more I read about that side of him, the more I do go, man, I want to know more, to be honest with you, in a good way. Where did that deeply spiritual side of him come from? And am I accurate about that first of all?

Derrick Boseman:

Well, you are accurate. And I would say from my parents, from my family. From my parents, from my grandparents, both sides. From my aunts and uncles.

Maina Mwaura:

Wow.

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah. From my family. Not saying that my family is perfect because we aren’t, by any stretch of the imagination, we have our dysfunctions, like every other family. Yeah but the root would have to be family.

Maina Mwaura:

He gets to Hollywood though and he still carries that spiritual side with him basically.

Derrick Boseman:

Correct.

Maina Mwaura:

How did he decide to do that in Hollywood? I mean, most people go to Hollywood and they lose it. If we’re going to be fair, about this discussion. How does he keep it?

Derrick Boseman:

Meditating. Prayer. Meditating. It was nothing to see him say, if we’re home for Christmas or for Thanksgiving, he might go into the living room, he was a martial artist. So he would do that and he would sit in the floor and in the meditation type thing and he might do this for an hour.

Maina Mwaura:

Wow. Just taking it all in.

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah. Prayer. Continued study. He had books. He didn’t have a library like this, but he had spiritual books. It was a lifestyle.

Maina Mwaura:

Yeah. Usually, help me out here pastor, usually people go out to Hollywood and I mean they experience with stuff, they usually leave their roots behind from where they came from. He doesn’t do that. I mean, he gets to Hollywood and he still…

Derrick Boseman:

He stays true to who he is.

Maina Mwaura:

He still remembers he’s from South Carolina. He still remembers that he’s a deeply spiritual man. He keeps with that flow. You don’t hear anything bad about him in the media. I mean, he stays with that.

Derrick Boseman:

I think he stayed grounded by keeping the lines of communication open.

Maina Mwaura:

With family?

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah. I mean, he would talk to my mom more than anybody else. Probably Mom, Dad, me and Kevin probably run neck and neck in third place. I think it’s because he kept the same voices.

Maina Mwaura:

Wow. In his head.

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah. Yeah.

Maina Mwaura:

When I think of Black Panther, I look that movie, you are physically engaged in all of that. I mean, at the same time, he’s sick at the same time. How does he do that? Where does that endurance come from?

Derrick Boseman:

I mean, it has to come from the “most high.” It has to come from God. God tells Paul that my strength is made perfect in weakness.

Maina Mwaura:

In your weakness.

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah. So it had to come from that source.

Maina Mwaura:

I mean, when I found out that he had cancer and he was doing that, that’s unreal.

Derrick Boseman:

It’s my strength is made perfect in weakness. And he also, before it even happened, had lived a life of discipline. He had lived a life of building stamina. Because like the meditation period that I, that was either preceded, I don’t know if it came before or after like an hour-long fight workout where he would do 50 pushups, 50 crunches, throw 50 right crosses, 50 left crosses, 50 uppercuts, 50 jabs with each hand. So he would do all the punches known to man, all the kicks known to man.

Maina Mwaura:

That’s unreal.

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah. And he would do it in like a cycle of 10 times. And then he would just repeat that cycle.

Maina Mwaura:

As you’re watching this though…

Derrick Boseman:

It was like watching a machine.

Maina Mwaura:

What were you thinking internally though, as his brother going?

Derrick Boseman:

That the workout that I was doing was nothing compared to what he was doing. And I had serious workout.

Maina Mwaura:

Serious workout. I’d be going.

Derrick Boseman:

But his was other worldly.

Maina Mwaura:

When he’s going through his cancer battle, how was the family so disciplined to not reveal that to anyone else? How did you guys decide as a family, hey, this is between us? Because you and I both know families and friends who would have shared that, but man, no one knows until the day of his death. How does that happen?

Derrick Boseman:

Loyalty. Just pure unadulterated loyalty. It’s something that’s ingrained. I mean, it’s understood if this is what you want, this is how we’ll handle it. And I think it’s a protection thing too. Yeah. For me personally, being the older, I’m going to protect my brothers and my family, period. And he wanted to be a normal person. I mean, he was an exceptional person. But he wanted to be a normal person and a normal person would deal with it, I think, that way.

Maina Mwaura:

Privately.

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah.

Maina Mwaura:

Yeah. Very much so. That’s a great point.

Derrick Boseman:

I mean, I’ve seen people do it other ways. But I mean, he didn’t want to take the world on that journey with him. And I’m not saying that people who opt to do it differently, who have celebrity were wrong, I’m just saying that he chose to do it privately.

Maina Mwaura:

I read, I think in The New York Times to be accurate and I think it was you who gave an interview to them, how he came to you the day before he passed away and said, “I’m in the last quarter.” What was that like? How’d you walk that through inwardly?

Derrick Boseman:

I have to think about it for a second.

Maina Mwaura:

And it’s one of those things I’m wondering-

Derrick Boseman:

I was already coming to, I don’t want to interrupt.

Maina Mwaura:

No, go right ahead.

Derrick Boseman:

I was already coming to that understanding anyway, just in watching. Just in seeing him in the kind of pain that he was in. I remember one time I leaned over to give him a hug and I just kissed him on his forehead, on his cheek and I accidentally put weight on his collarbone. He had gotten so small that he didn’t have like the…

Maina Mwaura:

Just the weight that you would normally have.

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah. And I was like, “Did that hurt?” He was like, “Everything hurts.”

Maina Mwaura:

Wow. One of his last acts that he does that, so struck me was that he weighs in on the election. He basically says, Senator Harris, I’m glad you’re here, basically. Why was that so important? This is my wife’s question here. She’s a AKA, by with way. Why was that so important for him to say, “Hey, I am acknowledging you. I’m glad you’re in the race.”

Derrick Boseman:

I didn’t know he did that.

Maina Mwaura:

Really?

Derrick Boseman:

I know there’s a picture of them. I know they’re both from Howard. She actually called our family. Yeah, I didn’t know he did that.

Maina Mwaura:

Yeah. My wife was is AKA like Senator Harris is.

Derrick Boseman:

Mine is also.

Maina Mwaura:

Yeah. So it was very powerful moment for her because my wife’s a big, she would want to be here to ask you the questions right now, by the way. His legacy. What do you think not only will that be, but as his brother, what do you want that to be?

Derrick Boseman:

As a man of faith. A man of extreme intelligence. A man who took the gifts that God blessed him with, he took what he was given and he multiplied it. He was well rounded. He was well read. He was completely into culture, who we are as a people. He was an amazing person. He had the three A’s, I call them, he was analytical, he was athletic and he was very, very artistic.

Maina Mwaura:

Wow. Man, that’s a powerful combination. Really last question this time, Derek. Black Panther II, I can’t tell you how my friends told me to ask this question, because I’m a big fan as well, what would he want Black Panther II to be like?

Derrick Boseman:

I can’t answer that.

Maina Mwaura:

What would you want it to be like, I can’t come here and ask that question. No, I’m joking Derek. No, I get it.

Derrick Boseman:

I mean, I would want him to be in it. I would want him to continue to be King T’Challa. Now I can answer what you aren’t asking me.

Maina Mwaura:

Okay. What is that question?

Derrick Boseman:

I see a narrative being assembled by Hollywood and I could be completely wrong, but a Black man being a king does not fit the narrative of what they want the world to see. A Black man being a victim, yeah. Black men being killed in the streets, yeah. But a Black man being a king is not the narrative that they want the world to see. And I don’t think they liked the response that came back from a Black man being a king. And though I believe that Black women are queens anyway, I think that the narrative that we will see is that the Black Panther will be a female.

Maina Mwaura:

You think so?

Derrick Boseman:

I believe so. I believe it’ll be her little sister or his little sister. That’s what I think. But a Black man being a king does not fit what the powers that be want.

Maina Mwaura:

That’s very interesting. It’s said that the more we do talk things out, the more we do start to heal. Yes. But also the more we start to honor the person too, which is even deeper, I think.

Derrick Boseman:

Yeah. I mean, I have other battles to fight that that are surrounding this. So that narrative that I gave sounds probably kind of conspiratorial.

Maina Mwaura:

You think?

Derrick Boseman:

I think so.

Maina Mwaura:

Why is that? I got to ask that. Why is that? The journalist that’s in me got to ask that question.

Derrick Boseman:

I don’t think anything’s happens by happenstance. I’m going to leave it right there for now.

 

Honoring God And Sharing Your Gift: Wisdom from Otis Kemp

Honoring God And Sharing Your Gift: Wisdom from Otis Kemp

UrbanFaith had the opportunity to sit down with artist Otis Kemp to talk about how he is able honor God while sharing His musical gifts. His hit single “The Reason” has gone viral and his music is being played all across the Southern United States. But his impact on his community and his journey to success have been anything but overnight. Otis Kemp shared a few key nuggets of authentic wisdom for people trying to be a blessing while being blessed.

Our Gifts Should Honor God

You want to share your gift. You want to share the message that God has given you. The music that I represent is life music. I don’t look at a particular genre, like gospel or anything, because anybody can say they are gospel and live like whatever. I believe life music is a testimony of who you are. When you when you see me, you should see some residue or some characteristics of the one Savior.

What Inspires You to Share Your Gift

I mean, to be honest [The Reason] was a song God gave me a couple of years ago, and it was at a dark time in my life. I began to prophesy over my life. I began to declare things that I was taught [since I was] a little boy. The God that my father taught me about [is why I live the way I do] even though at the time I didn’t understand what he was instilling in me. I’m a preacher’s kid and my family prayed.

You know, the Bible says you train up a child in the way they should go, and when they get older, they won’t depart from it. That is a true scripture. I’m evidence of that. I wanted to share with people when I say the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jabez [in my song] I’m talking the one and only true God. I’m talking about the God that you can actually talk to that you can have a relationship with. This ain’t no fake. It’s a real thing that he saved me. Like, I come from the streets. I’m from Miami, Florida, it’s rough. And down here, only the strong survive. God snatched me out of the darkness, snatched me out of the enemy’s camp, and brought me to his side.

 

How Can You Use Your Gift to Bless Others?

I would say the first thing that they should do is build a relationship with the Most High. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s not. I’m a living testimony. I got kicked out of every school in Miami and South Florida. And now I own three private schools within two and a half years. [It doesn’t] take 30 years; God judges you and he positions you by your heart. If your heart posture is correct, whatever passion you have, he will lead and guide you into all truth. The word of God is true.

If you want success, the only success you will have is with the Lord and in His Kingdom. Anything else is going to tear you down, going to destroy you, going to suck you dry. You become successful when it’s benefiting other people. Everything you do [with your gifts] should benefit someone else. That’s how you know it is from the Most High God. Jesus never did anything for Himself. Everything He did was for someone else. Now [He has] the highest name in the heavens, on earth, and under the earth. When you begin to lay down your life for the kingdom, your desires, your passion, or whatever it is, you can find out what God has already planned out for you. When you follow with Him you will have success. It’s just going to come with obedience.

 

Run For Gold: An Interview with Kim Bass

Run For Gold: An Interview with Kim Bass

Kim Bass is one of the most well respected and prolific writer/producers in the nation. He achieved TV gold as writer and producer on three of the most well known and inspirational TV shows for black audiences: In Living Color, Sister Sister, and Kenan & Kel.

UrbanFaith sat down with him to discuss his newest film Tyson’s Run which is in theaters everywhere March 11.

   

More information on the film is below:

When fifteen-year-old Tyson attends public school for the first time, his life is changed forever. While helping his father clean up after the football team, Tyson befriends champion marathon runner Aklilu. Never letting his autism hold him back, Tyson becomes determined to run his first marathon in hopes of winning his father’s approval.

With the help of an unlikely friend and his parents, Tyson learns that with faith in yourself and the courage to take the first step, anything is possible. In theaters nationwide on March 11, 2022. Find tickets at TysonsRun.com

Sidney Poitier – Hollywood’s first Black leading man reflected the civil rights movement on screen

Sidney Poitier – Hollywood’s first Black leading man reflected the civil rights movement on screen

Sidney Poitier, seen here in a 1980 photograph. Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images
Aram Goudsouzian, University of Memphis

In the summer of 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. introduced the keynote speaker for the 10th-anniversary convention banquet of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Their guest, he said, was his “soul brother.”

“He has carved for himself an imperishable niche in the annals of our nation’s history,” King told the audience of 2,000 delegates. “I consider him a friend. I consider him a great friend of humanity.”

That man was Sidney Poitier.

Poitier, who died at 94 on Jan. 7, 2022, broke the mold of what a Black actor could be in Hollywood. Before the 1950s, Black movie characters generally reflected racist stereotypes such as lazy servants and beefy mammies. Then came Poitier, the only Black man to consistently win leading roles in major films from the late 1950s through the late 1960s. Like King, Poitier projected ideals of respectability and integrity. He attracted not only the loyalty of African Americans, but also the goodwill of white liberals.

In my biography of him, titled “Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon,” I sought to capture his whole life, including his incredible rags-to-riches arc, his sizzling vitality on screen, his personal triumphs and foibles and his quest to live up to the values set forth by his Bahamian parents. But the most fascinating aspect of Poitier’s career, to me, was his political and racial symbolism. In many ways, his screen life intertwined with that of the civil rights movement – and King himself.

Actor Sidney Poitier marches during a civil rights protest in 1968.
Sidney Poitier, center, marches during the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, D.C., in May 1968. Photo by Chester Sheard/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

An age of protests

In three separate columns in 1957, 1961 and 1962, a New York Daily News columnist named Dorothy Masters marveled that Poitier had the warmth and charisma of a minister. Poitier lent his name and resources to King’s causes, and he participated in demonstrations such as the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage and the 1963 March on Washington. In this era of sit-ins, Freedom Rides and mass marches, activists engaged in nonviolent sacrifice not only to highlight racist oppression, but also to win broader sympathy for the cause of civil rights.

In that same vein, Poitier deliberately chose to portray characters who radiated goodness. They had decent values and helped white characters, and they often sacrificed themselves. He earned his first star billing in 1958, in “The Defiant Ones,” in which he played an escaped prisoner handcuffed to a racist played by Tony Curtis. At the end, with the chain unbound, Poitier jumps off a train to stick with his new white friend. Writer James Baldwin reported seeing the film on Broadway, where white audiences clapped with reassurance, their racial guilt alleviated. When he saw it again in Harlem, members of the predominantly Black audience yelled “Get back on the train, you fool!”

King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. In that same year, Poitier won the Oscar for Best Actor for “Lilies of the Field,” in which he played Homer Smith, a traveling handyman who builds a chapel for German nuns out of the goodness of his heart. The sweet, low-budget movie was a surprise hit. In its own way, like the horrifying footage of water hoses and police dogs attacking civil rights activists, it fostered swelling support for racial integration.

Sidney Poitier performs in the film 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.'
Sidney Poitier, Katherine Houghton and Spencer Tracy in the 1967 film ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.’ Photo by RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images

A better man

By the time of the actor’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference speech, both King and Poitier seemed to have a slipping grip on the American public. Bloody and destructive riots plagued the nation’s cities, reflecting the enduring discontent of many poor African Americans. The swelling calls for “Black Power” challenged the ideals of nonviolence and racial brotherhood – ideals associated with both King and Poitier.

When Poitier stepped to the lectern that evening, he lamented the “greed, selfishness, indifference to the suffering of others, corruption of our value system, and a moral deterioration that has already scarred our souls irrevocably.” “On my bad days,” he said, “I am guilty of suspecting that there is a national death wish.”

By the late 1960s, both King and Poitier had reached a crossroads. Federal legislation was dismantling Jim Crow in the South, but African Americans still suffered from limited opportunity. King prescribed a “revolution of values,” denounced the Vietnam War, and launched a Poor People’s Campaign. Poitier, in his 1967 speech for the SCLC, said that King, by adhering to his convictions for social justice and human dignity, “has made a better man of me.”

Exceptional characters

Poitier tried to adhere to his own convictions. As long as he was the only Black leading man, he insisted on playing the same kind of hero. But in the era of Black Power, had Poitier’s saintly hero become another stereotype? His rage was repressed, his sexuality stifled. A Black critic, writing in The New York Times, asked “Why Does White America Love Sidney Poitier So?”

Sidney Poitier receives Medal of Freedom in 2009.
President Barack Obama presents Academy Award-winning actor Sidney Poitier with the Medal of Freedom in 2009. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

That critic had a point: As Poitier himself knew, his films created too-perfect characters. Although the films allowed white audiences to appreciate a Black man, they also implied that racial equality depends on such exceptional characters, stripped of any racial baggage. From late 1967 into early 1968, three of Poitier’s movies owned the top spot at the box office, and a poll ranked him the most bankable star in Hollywood.

Each film provided a hero who soothed the liberal center. His mannered schoolteacher in “To Sir, With Love” tames a class of teenage ruffians in London’s East End. His razor-sharp detective in “In the Heat of the Night” helps a crotchety white Southern sheriff solve a murder. His world-renowned doctor in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” marries a white woman, but only after winning the blessing of her parents.

“I try to make movies about the dignity, nobility, the magnificence of human life,” he insisted. Audiences flocked to his films, in part, because he transcended racial division and social despair – even as more African Americans, baby boomers and film critics tired of the old-fashioned do-gooder spirit of these movies.

Intertwined lives

And then, the lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and Sidney Poitier intersected one final time. After King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, Poitier was a stand-in for the ideal that King embodied. When he presented at the Academy Awards, Poitier won a massive ovation. “In the Heat of the Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” captured most of the major awards. Hollywood again dealt with the nation’s racial upheaval through Poitier movies.

But after King’s violent murder, the Poitier icon no longer captured the national mood. In the 1970s, a generation of “Blaxploitation” films featured violent, sexually charged heroes. They were a reaction against the image of a Black leading man associated with Poitier. Although his career evolved, Poitier was no longer a superstar, and he no longer bore the burden of representing the Black freedom movement. Yet for a generation, he had served as popular culture’s preeminent expression of the ideals of Martin Luther King.

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Aram Goudsouzian, Bizot Family Professor of History, University of Memphis

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.