Nine-time Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter John Legend and Grey’s Anatomy actor Jesse Williams have joined the forthcoming social justice documentary With Drawn Arms as executive producers.
Directed by conceptual artist Glenn Kaino and Prince creative collaborator Afshin Shahidi, With Drawn Arms will explore the importance of Olympic gold medalist and former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tommie Smith’s Black Power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Through artistic collaboration between Kaino and Smith, the film will look to connect Smith’s silent protest to the police brutality and social injustices of African Americans in modern day America.
Legend and Williams will be joined by Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co. partners Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius.
Gold medalist of the 200-meter sprint finals in 1968, Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos raised their fists during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner to protest racial injustice and to advocate for human rights in the U.S. The silent protest caused controversy as it was seen as politicizing the Olympic Games, with the pair later being removed from the team by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
With Drawn Arms is currently in production in Los Angeles and is slated for a 2018 release to mark the 50th anniversary of Smith’s salute.
Kaino and Shahidi serve as executive producers alongside Jesse Williams, Delois Smith, and John Legend, Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius of Get Lifted.
“In this current climate we are once again being charged to stand up to bigotry, fear, and hate,” said John Legend, in a statement. “We are inspired by this story and honored to be a creative partner on this film.”
“Tommie Smith is more than an iconic poster or risky act of defiance that inspires people the world over,” added Williams. “He is a living man, whose incredible journey is worthy of examination. I couldn’t be more excited to join forces with this team of filmmakers, to share his reality and challenge our notions of heroism in the process.”
Legend’s Get Lifted banner recently produced television period drama series Underground, Academy Award-winning feature La La Land and HBO Documentary Southern Rites.
Williams is an activist, actor and producer whose work spans the mediums of television, film, and technology.