“Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story,” written and executive produced by Ericka Nicole Malone, opened the Pan African Film & Arts Festival earlier this spring.
Grammy award-winner Ledisi is featured in the role of the gospel music icon whose recording of “Move On Up a Little Higher” was the second gospel recording to sell more than a million copies in a year.
“Gospel music in those days of the early 1930s was really taking wing,” Jackson once said. “It was the kind of music colored people had left behind them down south and they liked it because it was just like a letter from home.”
Born in 1911, Jackson was the first to bring gospel singing to the general public. She was the first gospel singer to appear on the “Ed Sullivan Show” and became the first gospel artist to sing at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958. She was known as the “Queen of the Gospel Song.”
Malone continues to blaze a trail for women of color in the male-dominated entertainment industry.
“As a writer, you don’t just want to tell a story; you don’t just want to tell an African-American story; you want to tell a human story,” Malone said during a recent interview.
“I’ve respected Mahalia Jackson my entire life, so for me this was such an amazing honor to write about,” Malone said at the movie’s debut. “I tell people all the time that growing up, you had a picture of Dr. King, you had a picture of Jesus and on the other side, you had a picture of Mahalia Jackson.”
Malone said that Jackson would sacrifice everything, even through illnesses, so that she could help influence King and the Civil Rights Movement.
“She was a part of inspiring him to speak from his heart on the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” Malone said. “She would sing to him late at night when he was tired. She was just such an important figure.
“I tell people all the time, she was the Scottie Pippin to the Michael Jordan… She was a lot of the inspiration that would keep him going. The fuel that would keep him going.”
Jackson was at the height of her career when she took the time to fight for civil rights.
“She understood the importance of it,” Malone said.
Malone has been invited to show the film at other festivals around the country and is looking forward to a wider distribution.
“Actually we’re talking to networks and streaming services,” she said during a recent phone interview. “We’re just really excited. Distribution will be finalized in about a month.”