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“Drum Major Instinct”

Friday, February 19 2021

“Drum Major Instinct”
A dramatic reading of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “The Drum Major Instinct”—an evocative and ominous sermon about the impulse in all humans to be the first. Featuring performance duo Jason and Khalil LeSaldo followed by a conversation with Valeria Missalina Bembry.

Delivered  on February 4, 1968 – exactly two months before his assassination –  at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a cautionary sermon about the impulses that drive humans to compete – rather viciously at times – to be first or better than the other. Composed for diverse audiences, the sermon had the explicit objective of generating dialogue about racism and inequality while also fostering compassion, understanding, and inter-communal collaboration for justice. 

We invite viewers to not only listen and watch the performance but also follow the text, a copy of which can be found here, and reflect on how to measure the drum major instinct. 

Jason LeSaldo (he/him)
Jason LeSaldo is a multiracial Lebanese, Trini, French, writer and actor living in the Portland-land area. Jason is currently a full-time massage therapist and bodyworker, focusing on trauma informed care. He is currently finishing a bachelor’s degree in Health Science at USM with plans to start a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program in 2022. Bodies and stories go together, he is grateful to put them together in SPACE. 

Khalil LeSaldo (he/him)
Khalil is a teacher, writer, actor, director, and Mainer. He is currently living in North Carolina, teaching at UNC Chapel Hill, where he is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in acting. He is a member of Playmakers Repertory Company, and a founding member of 2Sheets Theater Company. He believes in the power of storytelling to save the human race. 

Land Acknowledgement
We recognize and honor the current Tribes who comprise the Wabanaki Confederacy—the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Micmac peoples—who have stewarded this land throughout the generations. We respect the traditional values of these Tribes and affirm their inherent sovereignty in this territory. We support their efforts for land and water protection and restoration, and for cultural healing and recovery. It is on said  land where we have recorded the majority of these events and performances in this program.

We pause in remembrance of the Tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy whose lives and land were taken through genocidal strategies of colonial settlement of this land.

We pay respect to elders both past and present, and we commit to the ongoing work of decolonization in Maine and beyond.

Source: The Bertha Crosley Ball Center For Compassion

Technology Acknowledgement  
We acknowledge that our organizers, performers, panelists and audience members are able to participate in our digital events using devices that contain in their essential components tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold – otherwise known as conflict minerals. Fueled by corporate greed, consumer demand, government policies and inaction by the international community, the extraction from the earth of conflict minerals has motivated and perpetuated armed conflict and contributed to societal instability, conflict related sexual violence and other forms of extreme violence – particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

We are grateful for the means of connection and communication that rely on these precious resources and we affirm our commitment to use them as a means to advocate for justice, accountability and restoration of peace and stability in the lands of their origin.

For more information visit, Never Again Coalition’s resources on conflict materials.

Valeria Missalina Bembry (she/her)
Born in Miami and splitting her youth between Florida and Maine, Valeria moved abroad upon graduating from Scarborough High School and kept it moving for nearly two decades across a couple continents. From 2011-2019 she had been based in Erbil in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq where she was an educator, cultural producer, and humanitarian aid professional. While working at the nexus of art and international development and cooperation, she worked with ArtRole, a British-Iraqi arts organization dedicated to fostering harmonious connections through artistic exchange and arts education. With ArtRole and other international and local cultural and humanitarian organizations, and with the support of the US Consulate, French Institute and Hivos, a Dutch development aid organization, she coordinated exhibitions, artist workshops and a conference examining gender roles in a changing society through the lens of artistic practice (Women in Action 2011-2013). Valeria earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Richmond, the American International University in London, a Postgraduate Diploma in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, and Master of Arts in Art Business from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Prior to her return to Maine, Valeria worked for the  International Organization for Migration (IOM – UN MIgration) in the Iraq Mission. This new programming series is part of her ongoing research in art activism as praxis in public education on social justice, human rights and migration, she is a protection specialist working with youth. Spitting Fire is her cultural programming debut in Maine.

Support for SPACE’s Curatorial Fellows and their programming has been made possible by the Moser Family Foundation, the Cohen Foundation, and the VIA | Wagner Incubator Grant. 

We’re currently accepting applications for a Spring Grants and Programs Intern.