November 20, 2013
“Countdown to Eternity”
A Rare and Intimate Look at Dr. Martin Luther King’s Final Years
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo/Benedict J. Fernandez ’87)
(NEW YORK CITY – Nov. 20, 2013) The Metropolitan New York Center of SUNY Empire State College will present “Countdown to Eternity,” a rare and intimate view of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final years, as observed through the lens of photographer Benedict J. Fernandez ’87.
The photographs in this exhibit are culled from Fernandez’s work with King on King’s book, “Trumpets of Freedom.” King was writing this book for a church group in Canada in 1966 and 1967 when Fernandez was invited to take part in the project as a photographer.
“Countdown to Eternity,” will open on Nov. 20, at 6 p.m., at the Metropolitan Center, 325 Hudson Street, fifth floor, in New York City. Light refreshments will be served. The opening and the exhibit are free and open to the public.
The show, which runs through Feb. 27, 2014, coincides with the 50th anniversary of King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, universally recognized for inspiring radical change in race relations in this country and elsewhere.
In this stunning series of photographs, the viewer is invited to share both public and private aspects of King’s life. Fernandez’s camera finds King during proud moments, contemplative moments and triumphant moments. He chronicles both the tragedy and introspection of his immediate family at the time of his death. Most of all, the photographs brilliantly capture the profound impact of King’s work and stand witness to his future legacy.
“This exhibition has been developed to ensure that, once again, people are reminded of the importance of his timeless message and inspired with the prospect of hope and empowerment,” said Fernandez.
Asa Aarons, former consumer reporter for WCBS-TV, NY1 News, WNBC-TV and founder and co-creator of JustAskAsa website, presents Benedict Fernandez ’87, with the Citizen Laureate Award. (Photo/Marty Heitner)
Cynthia L. Ward, dean of the college’s Metropolitan Center said, “Empire State College’s Metropolitan Center is honored to present ‘Countdown to Eternity.’ These powerfully moving images of Dr. Martin Luther King were taken by photographer and alumni Benedict J. Fernandez, who received Empire State College’s Distinguished Alumni Award in June 2013, as part of the Metropolitan Center’s ‘Celebration of Black Heritage’ event.
“These photos immerse us in the historical events of the final year of Dr. King’s life. Since it was founded in 1971, the mission of Empire State College was profoundly influenced by the progressive social movements of the time, and its commitment to access for all to a rigorous and innovative undergraduate education has never wavered.”
The first photos in the group were taken when King came to New York to give a speech at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967. He gave the same speech in front of the United Nations April 15, 1967, a location he chose with care. He was assassinated one year later to the day of his Riverside speech, on April 4, 1968.
It was with this speech that King stepped onto the world stage as a messenger for peace and civil rights for all people of the world. In one photograph, King stands in front of the United Nations with the American flag in the background, and tells the world of the beginning of the Poor People’s Campaign.
The portfolio begins with an image of King contemplating what he was going to say when he stood on the platform at the U.N. Other images show more private moments, such as when the civil rights leader is captured playing ball with his children in front of his Atlanta home, and relaxing with his wife, Coretta Scott King.
Fernandez was on the telephone with King’s secretary, making travel arrangements to go to Atlanta for the final photo shoot, when she gasped, and informed Fernandez that King had been shot.
About Ben Fernandez
Internationally acclaimed photographer Ben Fernandez’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide. He is in permanent collections of, among many others, The Smithsonian, The National Portrait Gallery, The Corcoran Museum of Art, MOMA, The Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, The University of Tokyo Library and The Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.
About SUNY Empire State College
SUNY Empire State College was established in 1971 to offer adult learners the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York.
In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career. Students engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or through a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to learn at the time, place and pace they choose.
The college serves more than 20,000 students worldwide at more than 35 locations in New York state and online. Its 70,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more.
More information about the college is available at www.esc.edu.
Media contact: David Henahan, director of communications
518-587-2100, ext. 2918
518-321-7038 (after hours and on weekends)