What better a way to start off black history month than by telling the stories of the wives of the two most recognizable faces of the civil rights movement?
At first glance, the two women might not appear to have had much in common other than being married to titans of the struggle. Yet, the story brought to life by the production efforts of R&B superstar Mary J. Blige takes us far beyond what we think we already know.
Blige brings to life the character of Betty Shabazz, wife of Malcolm X. Her on screen chemistry with Angela Bassett, who plays Coretta Scott King (wife of MLK) mimics the real life relationship the two shared. Actress Ruby Dee rounds out the featured ensemble, narrating these women’s relationship through her own eyes.
Betty and Coretta’s stories are perhaps ones that have been taken for granted. Many of us believe that we’ve learned possibly all we can about their renowned husbands. But, the film reveals details that let us in on who their wives ‘really’ were, beyond their widowed identity.
Malcolm and Martin gracefully exit the plot about 30 minutes into the film. Each makes just enough of an appearance to set the tone for these women’s plights. What ‘Betta and Coretta’ illustrates is that the two were very influential in keeping alive the dreams of their husbands. Whether it be successfully lobbying for the national recognition of ‘Martin Luther King Day’, or tirelessly endeavoring to get Malcolm X’s face on a U.S. Stamp, both played a key role in preserving their spouses’ legacies.
How different would the legacies of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. be had they not been married to such women? ‘Betta and Coretta’ takes viewers on a journey to help us recognize the true influence the two had on not just their husbands but the entire civil rights movement.
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