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Reflecting on 'The Drum Major Instinct' in East New York

A dramatic reading of one of Dr. King's most courageous and impactful sermons
The Choir and Samira Wiley perform The Drum Major Instinct Photo: Gregg Richards

On February 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA, where he spoke to his congregation about the destructive forces of "the drum major instinct," defined as the desire to be first, to be recognized, and to receive distinction.

This instinct, according to King, leads to "the most tragic expressions of man's inhumanity to man," including white supremacy, violence, consumerism, and unjust wars. King challenges his congregants and the world to harness this "drum major instinct" for good, to be first in love, first in righteousness, first in generosity, first in justice, and above all, first in service to others.

Fifty-two years after King's death, his words resonate with new depth and meaning, empowering us to celebrate the hard won victories of the Civil Rights Movement, while simultaneously interrogating the structures, hierarchies, and systems still in place, which have inhibited progress and sustained the oppression of countless people and communities.

On Monday, January 20, at the NYPD Community Center in East New York, an esteemed cadre of actors and poets will present dramatic readings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s sermon, "The Drum Major Instinct," in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday on MLK Day.

Adapted, directed & facilitated by Bryan Doerries and presented by the Theatre of War Productions, the event features NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and is free to the public.

A community discussion will follow.

WHAT: A performance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s THE DRUM MAJOR INSTINCT

WHEN: Monday, January 20, 2020, 3:00pm — 5:00pm

WHERE: NYPD Community Center, 127 Pennsylvania Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

WHAT ELSE: To register, click here