Today we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. MLK dedicated his life to improving the world, and his legacy has inspired many to continue to make the world a better place through a national day of service (nationalservice). Happy #MLKDay!
Amandla Stenberg is an actress best known for Catelya in Colombiana and Rue in The Hunger Games. She is an activist and in addition to advocating for No Kid Hungry, she has spoken out about a range of issues including the Black Lives Matter movement and the appropriation of black culture into the mainstream. She was named one of the Feminist Celebrities of the Year in 2015.
Stenberg was born in 1998 in Los Angeles, California and is named for the Zulu word and Xhosa for power. At the age of 4, Stenberg began modelling for Disney Catalogues and followed this with acting in a number of commercials for a range of clients including BuildTheDream.org. The advert was sponsored by Boeing and raised money for a national memorial in Washington D.C. honouring Martin Luther King, Jr. Stenberg was then invited to the memorial’s dedication ceremony by the MLK Memorial Foundation and paid tribute to the four girls who were killed in the Birmingham church bombing in 1963.
In 2010, Stenberg appeared in her first feature film, Colombiana playing a young Cataleya Restrepo, a character played by Zoe Saldana as an adult. Her performance was well received and she followed this with A Taste of Romance for the Hallmark Channel in 2012. That same year, Stenberg made her breakthrough as Rue in hugely successful trilogy The Hunger Games. Her portrayal of Rue earned her a NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture and she won a Teen Choice Award with co-star Jennifer Lawrence for Choice Movie Chemistry.
In 2013, Stenberg appeared in Mercy, a short film written and directed by Paula Patton. That same year, she guest starred in Sleepy Hollow, playing Macey in a four episode arc. In 2014, Stenberg voiced the character Bia in the animated film Rio 2. In 2015, she appeared as a series regular on NBC Universal’s Mr. Robinson.
In addition to acting, Stenberg plays violin, drums and guitar and in 2009 her involvement with the Rock STAR Music Education program led to gigs at the House of blues and the Hard Rock Cafe. Stenberg plays violin and sings harmonies as part of a rock/folk duo called Honeywater with singer/songwriter Zander Hawley since 2013. In 2015, Honeywater released their first EP. In 2015, Stenberg co-authored the comic book, Niobe: She is Life with Stranger Comics’ Sebastian Jones.
Stenberg has been called “one of the most incendiary voices of her generation” by Dazed magazine and has been outspoken on the issues she believes in. In 2014, she uploaded a school project video entitled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows” to her Tumblr @amandla, bringing a discussion on the appropriation of black culture into the mainstream. She has also spoken out to advocate for young women to engage with STEM, pointed out how problematic the “angry black girl” narrative is, supported the Black Lives Matter movement and has written about the subjugation of black women in the media. Stenberg is a youth ambassador for No Kid Hungry, an organisation which is fighting to end childhood hunger in the United States. She is also a supporter of the Ubuntu Education Fund, which supports children from “cradle to career” in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
MLK was told that he was “making it about race,” he was too young and impatient and scaring away allies and that he was “the real racist.” American police & media told MLK that if only these blacks would behave differently, THEN they’d be worthy of full protection under the law. MLK dedicated himself to the resistance of injustice. The separatism & extrajudicial beatings & murders of his day were not on black & white posters set to music, they were in color, in real-time; real lives destroyed & discarded. It was not universally identified as injustice. In fact, it was relentlessly excused, explained & justified away by the same spectrum of “nice Americans” that haunt progress today. His principled, uncompromising voice told the world that Black lives are in fact lives & therefore they matter. Then he was ridiculed for it by “good Americans.” Then beaten, bombed, stabbed, jailed, slandered, lampooned as a monkey by “satirists” & when he didn’t bow, he was shot to death in broad daylight. Surrounded by cameras and “he had it coming.” He wore a suit, had a doctorate, no tattoos or gold & far more articulate than those pretending any of that makes us more or less human.
What heinous excuses & jokes would have littered twitter the day MLK was killed?
Then comes the softening of blows, and focus, in death. The sterilizing and controlled reentry. The obedient smile. We #ReclaimMLK, as the human being: The fearless leader of a movement to disrupt real physical, social & psychological oppression. (Which at the time, was precisely what America stood for & shouted down upon millions of it’s most hardworking, longstanding citizenry.) MLK was decidedly NOT this gift shop souvenir being sold to us by revisionist historians & worshippers of convenience. #ReclaimMLK / Wanna be overseers, life-long house guests & self-service industrialists from sea to shining sea tried to crush MLK then, & us now. #OhWell / And just as is happening now, the reflection in the mirror MLK held, inspired a current of love & commitment that cannot be extinguished. In honoring MLK we honor the women & men, of all colors, queer, straight, rich & poor, who lifted him up, & themselves in the process. Keeping looking & listening, keep asking, keep thinking, keep writing, keep working, keep talking, keep trying & falling. Keep getting up.