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Event name

The Drum Major Instinct


Mon 01 / 17 / 2022
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Who can attend

External website conditions

Limited capacity: Registration Closed



Dramatic reading of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon to generate powerful dialogue about social justice.

About this event

The Drum Major Instinct presents dramatic readings by acclaimed actors of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s The Drum Major Instinct—a powerful, cautionary sermon about the impulse in all humans to be first—for diverse audiences, with the goal of generating powerful dialogue about racism, inequality, and social justice, fostering compassion, understanding, and positive action. These readings are accompanied by original and arranged music composed and conducted by Dr. Philip Woodmore, featuring a choir of diverse singers from St. Louis, Missouri and New York City.

On Sunday, February 4, 1968, Dr. King delivered The Drum Major Instinct at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, exactly two months before his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee. In it, he prophetically spoke of his own imminent death and laid out a challenge to his congregation, and also the world, to harness an inborn human drive—“the desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first”— and use it to promote justice, righteousness, and peace by channeling it into acts of service and love. The “distorted personality,” King argued, fails to harness this” the drum major instinct” for good and instead, "ends up trying to push others down in order to push himself up," leading to “the most tragic expressions of man's inhumanity to man,” including white supremacy, violence, consumerism, inequality, and unjust wars.

Co-presented by Theater of War Productions and the Office of the New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

Featuring performances by New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, New York Attorney General Letitia James, New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, and soloists De-Rance Blaylock, Duane Foster, and John Leggette.

Directed and Facilitated by Bryan Doerries

Music Composed and Conducted by Dr. Philip Woodmore

Co- facilitated by Dominic Dupont

The event Zoom link will be distributed and available to registered attendees starting 2 days prior to the event.

All of Theater of War Productions' events follow the same format:

  • The performers will read the text.
  • Four community panelists will kick off the discussion with their gut responses to what resonated with them across time
  • We will open the discussion to the audience, facilitated by Bryan Doerries. During the discussion, please raise your hand using the button at the bottom center of the screen. If called upon, you will be promoted to speak and you will be visible and heard by the entire audience for the duration of your comments. If you would prefer not to be seen, please disable your video.