One Man’s Tribute to MLK

Friday, February 3, 2012

The one-man show, “Ain’t Got Long to Stay Here,” take audiences through the civil rights era. It is told through the voices of the era’s prominent figures.

The one-man show, “Ain’t Got Long to Stay Here,” take audiences through the civil rights era. It is told through the voices of the era’s prominent figures.The show’s star and creator, Barry Scott, lived through the era.

Scott was born in the Jim Crow South. His birth certificate classified him as “colored.” The segregation laws and racism of the time harshly affected his upbringing including a run-in with a corrupt policeman. However, Scott was inspired and uplifted by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Some of the memories are painful,” Scott said recently. “But they renew me and remind me that we still have a long way to go.”

Scott brings his show, a tribute to King, to UWG’s Townsend Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, Feb. 9. The next day he’ll meet with ninth grade students at Carrollton High School.

The show has a rich soundtrack of piano and strings. Scott uses rear-screen projections to display images of King, the marches, the police brutality and the people who died for the cause. It includes images of the 1963 bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, in which four young black girls died.

In the show Scott plays not only King, but other prominent figures of the era: Alabama Gov. George Wallace, Sheriff Bull Conner, preachers, civil rights workers, cops and Klansmen.

Scott expects the audience to engage not only in the show itself, but to reflect on their own beliefs. After the show, Scott and the audience talk about social injustice from Jim Crow through the present.

Scott is a trailblazer himself. He is a founder and producing artistic director of the American Negro Playwright Theatre at Tennessee State University. The veteran actor also worked in Hollywood. The industry has changed since he worked there in the mid 1970s, allowing for more black roles now.

But the change has not little to do with social justice, he said. It’s about trends and profits. Producers passed on “Red Tails” because they didn’t think it would make money. They’ll consider movies with large black casts in the future only if it succeeds, he said. There’s a sense of indifference in Hollywood, he added.

“‘Red Tails’ would not have been produced if George Lucas hadn’t funded it out of his own pocket,” Scott said.

He credited producers like Tyler Perry for contributing to entertainment by hiring minority actors and crew.

And there are more stories to be told.

“We are still a polarized nation,” Scott said. “If we live in this country we should have an awareness of the backgrounds of the different cultures around us. Then maybe we would understand each other rather than reduce one another to stereotypes.”

Tickets for “Ain’t Got Long to Stay Here,” are $15 for adults, $14 for seniors and military, and $8 for children. Visit or call the Townsend Center Box Office at 678-839-4722 Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or one hour before show time.  Tickets may also be purchased online at www.townsendcenter.org.