- Faith & Family
Back in 1987, vinyl LPs were on the way out and CDs were still a novelty. At that technological crossroad, The Black Academy of Arts & Letters [TBAAL], the nation’s largest multi-discipline Black cultural arts institution, released a live recording of the legendary entertainer Eartha Kitt performing with The Black Academy Choir in celebration of the life and legacy of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.
The album, My Way: Musical Tribute To Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped raise funds for the non-profit organization’s various arts and youth programs. The roots of the project were born at Clara’s Kitchen, a once legendary soul food establishment in Dallas. TBAAL founder Curtis King had met Kitt when she was in concert at the city’s Venetian Room.
“I told her that I admired her and she gave me her private contact information and we stayed in touch,” he recalls. “At some point I invited her to headline our annual King Day concert and she stayed over a couple of days to just relax. We were sitting in Clara’s Kitchen and she talked about her career and being blacklisted. She gave me a lot of business advice and both she and her daughter were very encouraging to me over the years.”
Other vocalists featured include: contralto John Archie Sanders, Sharon Ephran, Rev. Armond W. Brown, Pat Kessee, Sterlena Taylor, Barbara Sims and organist Jimmy Wyatt. Kitt purred and sang her way through four of the songs including, “America The Beautiful” and Dion’s `60s classic “Abraham, Martin and John.” She delivered a smoky rendition of Billie Holliday’s “God Bless the Child” and created a spirited, nearly seven-minute rendition of “The drums still beat,” Kitt said in her spoken dialogue. “They beat for Martin. They beat for Mahatma. They must beat for you.” The legacy lives on.
Miami Times staff report