(Los Angeles, CA - January 18, 2021) -- TV One shines a light on Stevie Wonder and Gil Scott-Heron’s work to rally support to establish a holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr. in the two-hour, two-part special Unsung Presents: Music & The Movement airing tonight, Monday, January 18, 2021 at 8 p.m. ET/7C.
In the documentary that provides a timeline denoting how music from Black artists served as the soundtrack to the Black experience in America, civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton describes the impact of Wonder’s 1980 MLK tribute “Happy Birthday,” tour featuring Scott-Heron, and historic rally at the Washington DC monument in 1981.
Sharpton recalls former President Ronald Regan initially opposing creating a holiday in honor of King and Wonder and Scott-Heron helping to bring more attention to the cause. “The president at that time was saying, ‘That’s absurd we’re not going to do that,’” Sharpton says in the television special. “In fact, Ronald Regan had called Dr. King at some time a communist at some point in his life. As those of us in the King movement started to petition, Mrs. King was out front. All of a sudden there was a rhythm set to that movement, Stevie Wonder, Gil Scott-Heron, and the movement blew up, and it became a cultural phenomenon to accompany the political aspirations.”
In November 1983, three years after the release of Wonder’s King tribute, President Regan signed a bill to make Martin Luther King, Jr. Day an American federal holiday.
King received the support of numerous Black musicians, including Aretha Franklin, says Unsung Presents: Music & The Movement Co-Executive Producer P. Frank Williams. “People think of her as the greatest singer ever, but Aretha’s a very political woman,” Williams says. “And she actually funded part of Martin Luther Kings’ marches. She was always a part of it.” Williams, an Emmy and 8-time NAACP Image Award winning producer, has also produced shows like American Gangster on BET and Who Killed Tupac on A&E. He is the former Executive Editor of The Source Magazine. His company, Prophet From It Entertainment, recently produced an upcoming Black History Month social justice series and a hip-hop game show for Viacom.
Unsung Presents: Music & The Movement tells the stories of dozens of Black musicians including Billie Holiday, Curtis Mayfield, Public Enemy, and Beyonce, their music, and the impact they have had in fighting for equality and justice.
ABOUT P. FRANK
Emmy and 8-time NAACP Image winner P. Frank Williams has become a universally known and respected writer, speaker, teacher, and producer. The versatile and veteran Executive Producer nearly three decades of experience in Film/Tv and journalism. Williams has produced a number of acclaimed projects including Copwatch America (BET), Who Killed Tupac? (A&E), Being (Centric/BET), Unsung and Unsung Hollywood (TV One), American Gangster (BET), NAACP Image Awards (NBC), BETHonors, BET Hip-Hop Awards, BET Awards, VH1’s Hip Hop Honors, and films Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan (Paramount) and A Hustlerz Ambition (Universal/Def Jam Records). He is a former Executive Editor for The Source Magazine and staff writer for The Los Angeles Times. He is the founder and president of Prophet From It Entertainment, which produces inspirational TV, film, mobile, and web content. Williams is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and San Diego State University.
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Photo: TV One & P. Frank Williams