Award-winning playwright, Jeff Stetson, often wondered what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X discussed when the two major black leaders met briefly on a cold afternoon in March, 1964 at the Capitol in Washington, D.C, Civil Rights Movement historians believe that it was the only time the two men ever met face-to-face.
Did they talk about the directions and tactics that African Americans needed to pursue for equality? Did they talk about the differences in their style as leaders? Did they talk about their personal lives, inclusive of wives and children that they rarely saw?
Thus, in 1987, Stetson wrote the stage play “The Meeting.” The production provides extended conversations at a fictional meeting between the two men and what could have been discussed if they had met for a substantial period of time, or at various junctures of the Civil Rights Movement. “The Meeting” takes place in a hotel in Harlem, one week before Malcolm X was killed.
“The Meeting” comes to life at Kochoff Hall, on the campus of University of Michigan- Dearborn, located at 4901 Evergreen Road-University Center in Dearborn, Mich. The stage play will be presented on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 5:00 p.m. and Friday, Jan. 22 at 7:00 p.m. After the first production, there will be a Q&A with the actors and director. Admission is free, and the greater community is invited to attend.
Directed by Dexter L. Overall, the one-act, three-person, one hour-and- 20-minute production is presented by the Office for Student Engagement and performed through special arrangements with Dramatist Play Service, Inc. The actors are William Bryson (King), a native Detroiter; Don Snipes (Malcolm X), and Freddie Cruz (Malcolm’s bodyguard).
“I’m excited that the school is celebrating its Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. week with this stage production,” said Overall. “The playwright used words drawn from the two men’s actual speeches, writings, philosophies, and television appearances to put together a script, which captures Dr. King and Malcom’s views of civil and human rights through their respective eyes and philosophies. It’s an honor for me to direct the production.”
King was an American Baptist minister, activist, author, orator, humanitarian, and major leader of the Civil Rights Movement. His philosophy to advance the Movement was by engaging followers in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, such as protests, demonstrations, marches, sit-ins, and boycotts. His “I Have a Dream” speech, at the March on Washington in 1965 has been called one of the greatest and most memorable oratory presentations ever delivered. He is the recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tenn., while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, was a prominent Black Nationalist leader, who became a minister and national spokesman for the Nation of Islam in the 1950s and ‘60s. He later evolved in what true Islam really entailed. Thus, in 1964, he started two organizations: Muslim Mosque, Inc. and The Organization of Afro-American Unity. He was proactive in his fiery confrontations with white America and vowed to fight for the rights of black people, by any means necessary. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, (as told to Alex Haley) remains a mega-classic of African American literature. Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965 while delivering a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan, New York.
Overall, the director, who is also a playwright, performer, and founder of Chicago-based Dexter L. Overall Production, hopes that after audiences see the production, they will leave with a positive mindset of the progress made by African Americans, but also realize that more work is needed to achieve equality in America.
“With everything that’s been going on in our community over the past few years, I hope that the audience will leave with the urge to start discussions,” said Overall, who also serves as coordinator for diversity programs in the Office for Student Engagement at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. “I hope that they remember the work of Dr. King and Malcolm X, and remember that some of the same concerns that both men fought for in the 1950s and ‘60s are still prevalent today. So the time is now to get the conversations started again to proactively resolve various issues. The time is now to educate ourselves and acknowledge our history.”
For more information about “The Meeting,” contact the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Office for Student Engagement at 313.593.5390, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.