Preview screening of ‘Black American Since MLK: And Still I Rise’

Lucy Stone, News Editor

Part  of a banner by artist Inky Britt during the film screening of, “Black America before MLK” Lucy Stone, Nov. 10, 2016

On Nov. 10, Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) and GPB Savannah hosted a preview screening and community conversation of “Black America Since M.L.K.: And Still I Rise” at the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum. Located in downtown Savannah, the museum marks the history of the Civil Rights Movement in Savannah. The four-hour documentary series broken into two separate parts, was created by Henry Louis Gates, Jr and premieres Tuesday, Nov. 15 and on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

As the audience waited for the program to begin, a slideshow played that featured historical pictures that included NAACP marches, protests and sit-ins throughout the 1960s. This slideshow offered a lens into the past of Savannah and is available on the SavannahNow website.  

The panel consisted of figures who were and are current active members in Savannah’s black community and the NAACP. 83-year-old Mercedes Wright Arnold, named the “Sweetheart of the Civil Rights Movement,” was an active member of the NAACP and key leader of the movement in Savannah.

Other panelists included black leaders in Savannah’s community such as Phillip Davis who started his own non-profit The Indigos, Monisha Johnson, a businesswoman whose grandparents own the oldest black hair salon in the city, Brooke Ashley Robinson, host of RealTalk, an organization dedicated to reducing violence among youth in Savannah, and George Seaborough who is involved in various advocacy programs for black youth.  

The moderator of the night was Vaughnette Goode-Walker, one of the 9 first black women who were integrated into St. Vincent’s Academy in 1968. As she started the program, Goode-Walker read a poem she wrote that reflected on the days of segregation, past and present. “How have we come so far and still have so far to go?” she asked.

The theme of the night circled around the two main objectives: one was a question of whether or not there is unfinished business from the Civil Rights Movement, or if there are problems within the black community brought on by its own making. This question was poised to the audience and panelists to answer after watching a 10 minute preview of the “Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise” series.

The ten minute preview was about the recent shootings of unarmed black men by police in the United States. It reviewed Michael Brown’s death and the protests that followed, including the creation of Black Lives Matter. Clips of Tamir Rice and Eric Garner’s deaths were included as well as a brief CNN interview with Civil Rights Activist, DeRay Mckesson.

After the preview screening, several audience members spoke out. “By acknowledging the word “black” [in Black Lives Matter] we are aware of the racial divide,” a young black minister commented. “But we are raised to be colorblind, right?” he added.

The second theme of conversation revolved around how Savannah is still segregated today. Many agreed that segregation is still adamant in many of Savannah’s schools, neighborhoods, and on public transportation.

However, the conversation ended on a positive note of unity. Panelists and audience members alike commented on a need to “come together” to fix racial problems. “We cannot do this alone,” said Arnold. “Call on everyone who can help.” “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness,” said author of several books on Savannah’s black history, Charles L. Hoskins.  

Author and activist Tim Wise will be speaking on “White Privilege” in Armstrong’s next Campus Conversation on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 2:30 p.m. for those interested in continuing the conversation on race.