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'Fast Break: The Legendary John McLendon' screened at Lawrence Public Library in celebration of MLK Day

Friday, January 20, 2017

Kevin WillmottIn light of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Lawrence Public Library held a viewing Monday night of a documentary by the University’s own Kevin Willmott, a professor of film and media studies. His documentary "Fast Break: The Legendary John McLendon," ties into MLK Day with themes of struggle, persistence and overcoming. 

Kristin Soper, Adult Events Coordinator for the library, said she had heard about the film from her boss, and after doing some research decided it would be a great opportunity to show it for MLK Day, because of the film's resounding theme of perseverance. Willmott had shown films at the library before, so Soper was excited to share more of his work with the community. 

"Fast Break" tells the story of John McLendon and his struggles for equality in the 40s and 50s. McLendon was the first African American student to earn his degree in physical education at the University, and studied under the legendary Dr. James Naismith. They both shared similar qualities such as strong faith and a love for basketball. McLendon had found the perfect mentor.

Willmott captured the struggles of McLendon fighting for equality in the world of basketball and his efforts to end segregated teams. Throughout the documentary, McLendon was said to have a “Martin Luther King-like character” by many of his former players. He was persistent, a little stubborn, full of humor and peaceful in his endeavors. Instead of protesting, McLendon liked to negotiate and prove his team’s skill set, and he began to see results.

“He is the reason we have integrated basketball today,” Willmott said.  Read more



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