April 4th will mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here in Memphis, every year on the 4th there is a march in honor of Dr. King, but anniversary years are noted more widely throughout the city. The obvious way for the Brooks to participate in the commemoration is through an exhibition. It seemed to me that the best way to do this is in two parts, a section that details the events and circumstances that lead to the Civil Rights Movement and a section on Dr. King himself. Although the museum has been collecting works related to Dr. King and the sanitation strike that brought him to Memphis, I needed to secure some loans for the exhibition.
Two of the people I approached are former NBA players–Darrell Walker and Elliot Perry–who are also collectors of art by African American artists. Elliot, in fact, credits Darrell with turning him into a collector. On one of their NBA trips, Darrell took Elliot to look at art and the rest is history, as they say. They are both extremely generous in sharing their collections with the public, and collect widely from “old school” artists such as Beauford Delaney and Jacob Lawrence to contemporary artists including and Glenn Ligon. Calvin Burnett’s KKKK (from Darrell Walker) and Demetrius Oliver’s Till (from Elliot Perry) are pointed and disturbing; in other words great examples of how art can expose injustice and ask questions that might even spur people to act, as well as celebrating the human spirit as evidenced in the example of Dr. King.
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.