Watching Our Friend, Martin was an annual custom at my elementary school. Year after year, grade after grade, each Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - we’d watch Our Friend, Martin to learn how Dr. King advocated for peace, respect, and equality for all people.
Released in 1999, Our Friend, Martin is an animated film about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the blessings he bestowed on humanity. The film observes the accomplishments of Dr. King through the perspective of Miles, a Black 6th grader who is more interested in baseball than biographies and history books. Or so Miles believes.
The film takes a magical turn of events when Miles, his White best friend Randy, his Latina classmate Maria, and the White school-bully Kyle are sent back in time to see Dr. King in action. The gang makes multiple appearances in some of the notorious moments of Dr. King’s life, witnessing the bombing of Dr. King’s home, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and The March on Washington.
The film’s all-star cast includes Angela Bassett, Danny Glover, James Earl Jones, Jaleel White, Levar Burton, Oprah Winfrey, Samuel L. Jackson, and Whoopi Goldberg.
THE DISEASE OF RACISM
It’s amazing to me that I was allowed to watch Our Friend, Martin as a second-grader. The sixty-minute film is jam-packed with police brutality, segregation, and what Dr. King called the “disease of racism”.
COVID-19 might be a killer disease but racism is THE OG virus.
Watching this film brought up a lot mentally. As an adult, I picked up on the character dynamics, language, and subtleties of the film. Aspects that I easily overlooked as a child. This G-rated film was a lot for me to take in, and I’m twenty-seven years old! I totally forgot about Kyle, the White school-bully, who seems to be a pain in the ass to everyone but mainly bullies the Black characters. I was beyond shocked when one of the White characters said to Randy, the eleven-year-old White skater boy in the film, “I suggest you leave those negroes alone or the only hanging you’ll be doing with them is from a tree.”
Again, who recommended this film for seven-year-olds?
I will say that reconnecting with this film brought up the same core emotion it did some twenty years ago. Self-empowerment. In watching Our Friend, Martin I was inspired by Dr. King’s powerful imagination. It takes a pretty devoted dreamer to imagine a future that doesn’t exist and fight for it to become a reality.
Simply put, using your imagination is a revolutionary act. Being a dreamer is a revolutionary act.
Borrowing a line from the film, "everyone has the power to make the world a better place. All you need is a dream and the courage to make it happen." I’ve decided my new ritual for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is to imagine a future worth fighting for. I want to use the holiday and the celebrations to come to envision a future that I feel responsible for creating. Additionally, I want to be a part of a future that not only serves my interest but more importantly serves the interest of humanity as a whole. As I grow older I realize my responsibility to the world only becomes greater and greater. As I think of having children and grandchildren afterward, I want to use the time I have now to plan for their futures and dream a little bigger on their behalf.
What kind of dreams do you have for the future? What kind of world do you want to live in? What kind of world do you think is worth fighting for?
WATCH "OUR FRIEND, MARTIN"
Run Time: 60 minutes
Disclaimer: Please note that I did not upload this video to YouTube, so I can't be held responsible for the quality of this film. It's clearly a VHS recording of a 22-year-old tape. With that being said it's in pretty great shape, and worth watching. Additionally, I am not affiliated with the publisher or distributor of Our Friend, Martin. I’m simply a girl who likes to browse the internet for 1990’s era films and share my fantastic finds.
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