WBTT to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy

Free streaming video from 2019 celebration features re-enactments of Dr. King’s speeches, plus song and dance

The Rev. Charles McKenzie re-enacts excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches and writings during a WBTT celebration. Contributed photo by Sorcha Augustine

The members of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) are inviting the public “to celebrate the rich legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” with MLK: Celebrating His Legacy in Spoken Word and Song,” the troupe has announced.

The production, which will be available for free streaming on WBTT’s website from Jan. 16 through Jan. 18, features re-enactments of King’s speeches, plus song and dance, a news release says. “The program was recorded during WBTT’s 2019 performance at the Booker High School Visual and Performing Arts Theatre,” the release explains.

Among the program highlights are excerpts from King’s speeches and writings, re-enacted by the Rev. Charles S. McKenzie Jr., “interspersed with singing and dancing by some of WBTT’s most popular performers, including WBTT founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs,” the release notes. “The video will be introduced via newly recorded footage, with remarks by Jacobs, WBTT Executive Director Julie Leach, and Roxie Jerde, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the release adds.

“Especially following a year when racial strife and inequality were at the forefront of issues facing our nation, the commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day carries particular significance,” said Jacobs in the release. “While WBTT always prefers to be live, we felt we needed to find a way to honor Dr. King, and our WBTT Live On-Demand Video platform offered a way for us to present the program for the community,” Jacobs added in the release.

This program — written and adapted by Jacobs and the Rev. McKenzie, and directed by Jacobs — is sponsored by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Sarasota County Bar Association’s Council for Diversity and Inclusion, the release notes.

Additionally, the release points out, each year, WBTT and the Council celebrate the winners of the Council’s annual MLK essay contest. The 2021 winners are Nora Ngo Mitchell (Booker High School), Oliver Myers (Pine View School) and Marian Morera Bandera (Booker High School), the release says. “Mitchell will read her first-place essay as part of the MLK celebration video,” the release adds.

“At our organization, we promote and celebrate the African-American experience,” said WBTT Executive Director Leach in the release. “Dr. King’s leadership during the Civil Rights Movement is a major part of that experience and we are proud to honor his enduring legacy,” Leach added. “While we are disappointed we can’t bring this program to the community live this year, we are thankful that technology allows us to offer the program free and widely, for all to enjoy,” she said.