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Lamman Rucker: ‘I feel connected to Memphis’

Actor Lamman Rucker

Actor Lamman Rucker has become a familiar face around Memphis, for one reason or another. He’s delivered the commencement address at LeMoyne-Owen College, and of course, he plays Jacob Greenleaf, son of a prominent Memphis pastor in OWN Network’s “Greenleaf.”

This week, he’s back to emcee the National Civil Rights Museum’s Freedom Award on Wednesday night, his second time hosting the program. This year’s honorees are musician/activist John Legend; African activist Hafsat Abiola; and women’s rights legend Gloria Steinem.

I caught up with Rucker Monday evening to chat about the Civil Rights Museum, the Freedom Award and whether he’s now an honorary Memphian (Interview edited for clarity and length).

Lee Eric Smith: You’ve been around Memphis quite a bit. Are you starting to feel like a Memphian?

Lamman Rucker: Man, I got on my Memphis T-shirt . . .  I’m representing! I’m True Blue! Yeah man, I actually, I really do. You know it’s been really interesting to develop a relationship with this town over the last quite a few years now. So, yeah, I actually do kind of feel, you know connected to it. I do care for Memphis and always have a great time when I’m here. So if Memphis will accept me as such, maybe I’ll figure out how to get some honorary citizenship, you know what I’m saying?

LES: It’s your second time hosting the Freedom Award. What does that mean to you?

Rucker: It means a lot. And in particular, it also is very personally flattering to have been asked back. I think this is a highly sought-after opportunity and privilege I think a lot of people would love to be able to do this. I consider this very hallowed ground, like a treasured precious burial ground if you will, you know what I’m saying.

To have the opportunity and the responsibility to come back and to and to love on this place, and to continue to be another element of this work in this fight . . . the vision and the commitment to to equal rights and civil rights and justice and equality . .  it’s dope.

So if I had to come back and do it every year, I probably would (laughs)! The audience might get tired of me! Or maybe everybody might be like, “Yo, y’all going next year to Memphis with Lamman next year?” Whatever it is, I just want to be an asset to to the museum to to his work to the work and sacrifices so many people who’ve been active around the world.

LES: It’s a different political climate from when you hosted back in 2011. Does the current political environment kind of elevate the importance of the Freedom Award?

Rucker: Well, I think says something. It depends on how you jump on it. I mean, anybody and anything looks good in comparison to this orange clown we have occupying the White House. So the fact we’ve got two women being recognized out of the three honorees . . . we’ve got two people of color . . . I think it’s profound.

And (the museum) brings people in not just from across the country but from all over the world. When I stopped by again (Monday) afternoon, we were with several people from a number of different countries. It stays busy all year round, as people understand not only the importance of Dr. King’s legacy, but again, just the global value of the fight for equality justice and human rights everywhere.

It’s real cool that Memphis (is in the spotlight). This is a legendary city with an incredible legacy. And although Dr. King spent his final moments here, it’s actually been a source of inspiration for for people all over the globe. So it’s incredible to turn something that might be sour into something that resonates everywhere.

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