‘Kids walk and talk differently when that history is inside them’
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Present both online and in person, nearly 70 people turned out Monday for a special screening at the Presbyterian Center of the brief film “1963-Still: Same Shot,” which was filmed by and featured youth ages 6-18. The film was made this summer through a partnership among the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); its Louisville neighbor, the Roots 101 African American Museum; Media Pros Productions; Upcoming Storytellers; and the Louisville Central Community Center.
Speakers following Monday’s screening were Brelin Tilford, founder and CEO of Media Pros Productions and Upcoming Storytellers; Lamont Collins, founder and CEO of the Roots 101 African American Museum; and Troy Bell, creative arts director at the museum.
Participating young people learned about film production and acted in the film to illustrate pivotal moments in the civil rights movement and about important events that occurred in 1963, including the assassination of Medgar Edgars, the deaths of four girls from the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, the Chicago Public Schools boycott, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The film, speakers explained, makes connections between these historical events and recent events in Louisville, including the 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor by Louisville police.
In the film, Collins, playing himself, tells a family visiting from out of town they’ve arrived at the museum after hours. Please, the family asks him: “We’ve come a long way.”
“Today’s your golden day,” Collins says with a grin. “Come on in.”
Collins tells one of the visiting children “about the legacy of who we were. What is our history? It’s resilience, excellence, struggle and history. It’s history we too often repeat with the same shot.”
The film features choreographed numbers for children and a moving version of one child singing, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.”
“The teens took all the shots and called the shots,” said Tilford during a question-and-answer session that followed the screening.
“It was important to make this,” Bell said. “I was born in the 1960s, and to see the things that were going on then are still going on now is mind-blowing. In 60 years, we still haven’t gotten better. We’re still doing the same shot.”
“Those young people got in and got to understand our history. It was nothing but excellence,” Collins said. “Kids walk and talk differently when that history is inside them.”
“We talk about equity and justice, but it’s about resources. You guys provided the resources our kids don’t have enough of,” Collins told the Presbyterians in the conference center and online. “We have everything to do everything, but we don’t have the resources.”
“It wasn’t about teaching them film — how to operate a camera or do editing,” Tilford said. “It’s to expose them to what a production looks like and feels like, and how we can work together.”
One youth had recently moved from Kansas City to Louisville “and didn’t know anybody,” Tilford recalled. By the second or third day of their time together, he met a person at a roller-skating rink who helped him land a job there. “People evolved beyond the scope of what we were creating together,” Tilford said. “That was the neat thing I saw from the kids.”
Collins discussed 400-year-old chains at the museum visitors can put on “to feel the trauma of what happened. They feel the trauma and they feel the strength of what came through. That’s why it’s so important to tell our story. We can change the world if we can tell our story.”
“A major plus for this event,” according to Bell, is that those who attended the summertime camp “are telling their friends they are movie stars. We have to do our part by making sure lots of people see this film.”
Indeed, plans are in the works to schedule future screenings.
“When we agree on an idea and come together to make it happen, we can do anything,” Tilford said. “We created a safe environment so these kids could be themselves, and we created something beautiful.”
“We wanted [to help make a film] that would bother people, because when they’re bothered, they do something,” Bell said. “It’s important to be not only intentional about telling our story, but strategic about it.”
The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and the Rev. Bronwen Boswell, Acting Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, both brought online greetings just before the screening started. Afterward, Kathy Lueckert, president of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation, presented Collins with a $1,500 check, the proceeds from a recent basket auction at the Presbyterian Center.
“Through your hard work, Roots 101 is thriving,” Lueckert told Collins. “We are delighted to be your neighbors.”
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