MMT Celebrates Black History Month with Fate Comes Knocking

If history books are anything to go by, movements are defined by the people who lead them. But no movement could move anywhere without its foot soldiers, who fuel the fire. The journey to the mountaintop begins first on the front porch, where communities gather for conversation and pea shelling. It is from their front porch seats that everyday people watch history unfold and become a part of it. Such is the thesis of Ricardo Pitts-Wiley’s Fate Comes Knocking at Mixed Magic Theatre.

The small cast of characters, directed by Pitts-Wiley, includes four of Martin Luther King Jr.’s neighbors (Jeannie Carson, Jay Walker, Jomo Peters and Veronica Mays), who watched him grow up from a clumsy, energetic young boy to the leader of the civil rights movement, and followed him the whole way through. While shelling peas, they discuss King’s life and work along with other prominent civil rights figures and the movement as a whole from their vantage point. There is a lot of name dropping – enough for it to feel like a history class, if the average history class went much deeper into civil rights than just MLK. Where it succeeds is in not unconditionally deifying King as the perfect activist; the women on the porch point out that he and other leaders failed to include women in the movement, even barring Rosa Parks from giving a speech, as well as his reluctance to speak out against the Vietnam War in favor of keeping President Johnson in his corner, passing civil rights legislation. In response to the mention of this ultimatum, one of the women questions why it has to be one or the other, saying that’s how men think. While focusing on the work of King, it also manages to highlight women’s experiences and emphasize intersectionality. This is echoed in moments between King (Jaquan Stanley) and his wife (Charmaine Gray), where she expresses her fears for his and their children’s lives.

Gospel music is featured prominently, as it ought to be for the role it played in the movement. Not everyone is a fantastic singer, but that’s not really the point; those musical moments create an infectious sense of community.

While this show sets out to focus on the everyday people who followed King, it spends a lot of time focusing on King and other prominent civil rights figures, which makes the show not as novel as it sounds. There are stories of their perspectives of monumental moments – there’s a story of them getting lost during the March on Washington, and one of the women recalls losing her son to the Vietnam War – but the focus still seems to be on the names we recognize. Still, there are affecting moments, and it’s definitely a good piece for Black History Month.

Fate Comes Knocking runs through Feb. 11 at Mixed Magic Theatre. For tickets, visit

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