Multicultural TV Summit: What Paramount Network Wants You to Know About 'I Am MLK Jr.'

Paramount Network will recognize the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. with a new documentary, I Am MLK. Jr., which chronicles the life of the American icon and leader of the Civil Rights Movement.

The event, which will air simultaneously on both Paramount Network and BET on April 4 – the day King was assassinated in 1968 – is one of several cable specials commemorating King and the Civil Rights Movement, including History’s Rise Up: The Movement That Changed America; Reelz’s Martin Luther King: One Man and His Dream; and HBO’s King in the Wilderness.

I recently spoke to Paramount Network senior vice president of sports and specials Jon Slusser about I Am MLK. Jr, which features interviews from such civil rights-era activists as Rev. Jesse Jackson and Ambassador Andrew Young, as well as contemporary influencers in sports and entertainment like Carmelo Anthony, Nick Cannon and Van Jones.

Here’s what Slosser and Paramount Network want you to know about I Am MLK Jr.

The documentary is relevant to today’s social activist movements: “We’re excited about it. We’re airing it on April 4 because it’s such an important date in history, and the project is important to us because it’s so relevant to the moment we’re living in. When you look at what was happening 50 years ago and then you look at what’s happening today, there’s so much in common. We’ve made progress, but unfortunately not that much when you consider what’s happening around the world and here in the US with the rise of social activism – whether its gun violence, the women’s march or the Black Lives Matter movement. All these themes are still there, and I think this project reminds us that these issues, struggles and problems that we’ve been dealing with for a long time are still with us.”

Viewers will gain new and more in-depth insight on the life of Martin Luther King: “There are so many first-person accounts of everything from the big moments you thought that you’ve seen before, but also really intimate moments from people who spent a lot of time with him. There are little things about what he would say or what he liked to eat – a personal side to a man that most people never knew before. It was fascinating to see the interviews and first-person accounts from those who lived and worked with him on a daily basis.”

Millennial viewers will be able to relate to the documentary: What director Derik Murray tried to do is have a mix of the people that spent time with Dr. King and then have younger voices that can connect the two worlds together. When you can do that, I think it does have a greater relevance to today’s younger generation, who didn’t live and experience those things first hand. When you think of the marches that just occurred and the social activism we’re seeing today, I think we’re going to see a new generation that can identify with what happened in the past with Dr. King in a way that they never had before because of all these new, really important and relevant things that are happening around social activism. 

READ MORE: Complete Coverage Of The Multicultural TV Summit

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.