Betty & Coretta (2013 Lifetime)
Cast: Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige, Gloria Reuben
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Synopsis (via Lifetime)
The widows of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and how they carry on as single mothers after the assassination of their husbands.
The movie begins with stock footage of President Obama’s resurrection, a monument to Martin Luter Kind. Ruby Dee (Actress from the original production A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry) recalls being a part of the 1960’s civil rights movement as the film cuts to images of Angela Bassett as Coretta Scott King and Mary J. Blige as Dr. Betty Shabazz.
In Selma, Coretta Scott King, dressed in a fabulous head to tow white ensemble, meets with Malcolm X and tries to find common ground. Then she visits her husband in jail.
Meanwhile, Dr. Betty Shabazz is putting her kids to bed and wants her husband to stay home more. They are in a bad financial situation, and she feels their home is not safe. They both know that people want Malcome X dead and plan for the possibility of his untimely death. In the middle of the night, Klan members burn their house down with the family inside. They make it out, and Malcome X sends his family to live with family friends Tom and Tony; later, at a speaking engagement, he is gunned down violently assassinated in front of his kids and wife. At the funeral, Betty says her final goodbye. (Very well acted here by Mary J Blige.) She has no money, lost her husband, and is pregnant with twin girls. Betty moves her six children into the suburbs and focuses on volunteering and charity work.
A telegram comes from Martin Luter King sending his condolences. Coretta helps him write the letter because she is assisting BTS. They have a loving and supportive relationship. They are also receiving threats because there is a backlash on MLS’s non-violence teaching, and the Black Panthers are gaining prominence after Malcolm X’s murder. On a rainy day, Coretta gets a call informing her that her husband was assassinated as well. She insists they continue with peaceful protests and walks. With 20,000 supporters in Memphis. The same city where her husband was murdered.
Betty and Coretta couldn’t be any more different in their approach to dealing with life after their husbands’ murders. The women meet at the National Black Convention, where they both served as speakers. (Which we see in full. It is inspiring to see their perseverance and strength.) Afterward, over a beer, they vow to keep their husband’s ideas and move them forward. Coretta pushes for a national holiday honoring her husband. Betty earns her Ph.D. and becomes a professor.
Betty hosts a party with her family and Coretta’s. Coretta is going to speak before congress about Martin Luther King Day. She has been advocating for the day for eighteen years. They continue to see one another through the years and work to inspire the next generation. Betty’s daughter drops out of Princeton and moves to Paris.
Coretta fights for her husband’s legacy, specifically involving FBI tapes but finally gets the federal holiday passed.
Betty hosts a popular New York radio show and meets with Nelson Mandela. She continues to worry about her daughter, who has started drinking. When Betty goes on television and accuses Louis Farrakhan of murdering Malcolm X. Qubiliah, her daughter, allegedly conspires to kill Farrakhan and is arrested. She is later acquitted. Betty takes in Qubiliah’s son, Malcolm Jr. He sets fire to the apartment, and Betty suffers horrible burns.
Coretta visits Betty in the hospital and comforts. Qubiliah, who is distraught. Betty and Coretta cry, She says she doesn’t blame her grandson. She dies in the hospital from her injuries. Coretta passes away nine years later of ovarian cancer.
The narrator speaks of how the women face tragedy and fought for the future of their family and the country.
Minority Report: Leading and Supporting roles featured black actors.
Angela Bassett played Betty Shabazz TWICE. In Malcolm X & Panther.
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*Photo Credit: © 2013 Lifetime