“Yes, you can kill the dreamer. But you CANNOT kill the dream.”
- Reverend Samuel Kyles
25 Years of Commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
1986 – 2011
Our Christmas visit home to see our families (my family from Houston, Brett’s from Memphis) was a remarkable time. Though I’m from Houston, we met my family in New Orleans, a place we’ve called home since I was in grade school. After our NOLA visit, we headed to Memphis to be with Brett’s family. In addition to feasting and spending time with family, we try to take in all the important sites that make Memphis both a music capital and an historic capital. One of these sites is the wondrous Civil Rights Museum located right at the Lorraine Hotel, the site of the April 4 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. For anyone who finds themselves in Memphis, a visit to the Civil Rights Museum is an absolute MUST. And I simply cannot stress this enough: please give yourself at least a few hours to take everything in – our regret is that we didn’t realize how vast and remarkable the place was. We are certainly due another visit to complete the circle of our tour through this murky, solemn time in our country’s history.
[If anyone affiliated from the museum is reading this, thank you very much for your graciousness. We were greeted with smiles and warmth and were made to feel extraordinarily welcomed. You'd be surprised how many museums forget these basic courtesies.]
I’d like to introduce you to what has become the Civil Rights Museum’s proud cinematic mainstay: The Witness From the Balcony of Room 306. Especially released for the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, The Witness details the days leading up to Dr. King’s death as told first-hand by his comrade and dear friend the Reverend Samuel “Billy” Kyles, who was actually on the balcony behind King as the shots were fired. My experience watching this film was indescribable – I felt outrage, sadness, jealousy, pride, sympathy, wonder, amazement. And mostly, just pure shame. The film, which was nominated for a 2009 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short, now screens permanently at the Civil Rights Museum and is the perfect introduction to the spirit of the museum, which not only catalogs Dr. King’s legacy but those who played a key role in our country’s Civil Rights Movement. Both the good and the ugly are showcased at the museum.
Aside from viewing the film at the Civil Rights Museum, seeing The Witness may be a challenge. Though it premiered on HBO in February 2009, the film is currently not in circulation on Netflix, though further searching might yield copies at various retailers. Fortunately, the film IS available for purchase through the Museum.
We highly recommend seeing this film, how ever you are able to do it. For now, this trailer beautifully captures the spirit of the documentary – hopefully it inspires you to purchase the film or offer your support to the Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2011.
- CLICK HERE to visit the official site for The Witness From the Balcony of Room 306 -
- CLICK HERE to purchase The Witness from the Civil Rights Museum -
- CLICK HERE to visit The Civil Rights Museum –