Trailblazers Program teaches young people and film production and racial justice work
by Mark Koenig | Special to Presbyterian News Services
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – “They keep coming.” The affirmation echoed through the Roots 101 African American Museum on Friday, July 14 as the participants in the Trailblazers Program spoke and marched during a live preview of the short film 1963-Still: Same Shot.
Work on the film began at the Presbyterian Center on Monday and continued through the week. The film provides a tribute to five pivotal moments in the Civil Rights Movement on their sixtieth anniversary: the assassination of Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963, the March for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963, the Chicago Public Schools boycott on October 22, 1963, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The film will make connections between these events and recent events in Louisville.
The Trailblazers Program grew from the vision of Brelin Tilford, chief executive of Media Pros Production, a Louisville-based production company. Tilford, who has worked with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly and on other PC(USA) projects, imagined the Trailblazers as a time to help young people learn about the elements of video production from working behind the camera to being in front of the camera.
In partnership with Roots 101 African American Museum, the Louisville Central Community Center, and the Presbyterian Center, the vision took flight this week. Young people, ranging in age from 6 to 18 gathered for a week of learning and fun. The younger children comprised the cast. The older children worked behind the cameras.
“It was wonderful to see the vision come to life during the Trailblazers Program,” observed Tilford. “We stood on the shoulders of my grandfather who worked in video production and who mentored me and others. In that spirit, we helped the young people learn the importance of telling their story. And we introduced them to tools and techniques to use in storytelling.”
The Conference Center at the Presbyterian Center served as the hub for the production. Filming took place in the production studio, in the chapel and at the Angles Selfie Museum. Exterior scenes were filmed in the alley beside the Presbyterian Center and in Louisville’s Waterfront Park.
Creatives from the Louisville community made lunch-time presentations. The participants were introduced to the work of web design, podcasting, and advertising. Engaged conversation followed each presentation.
Employees from the Presbyterian Center organized and served lunches and snacks for the cast and crew. Lemonade made by Debbie Gardiner proved particularly popular. The Building Services team took care of the daily arrangements for the Presbyterian Center set. The Cleaning Services team made sure the set was clean. Building Security looked out for the well-being of everyone involved. In addition, Presbyterian Center employees provided information and training about the child protection policies and collected all the needed paperwork.
“I am grateful to all our colleagues who supported this effort,” said Maha Kolko, project manager for Community Outreach and Volunteerism in Human Resources. “Together, we helped make this important event happen.”
Primary filming wrapped up on Friday afternoon. Editing has begun.
Early Friday evening, the cast and crew, family members and friends, Presbyterian Center employees among them, gathered to learn about the week’s work and to view a live preview of the film.
For that preview, the 1963-Still: Same Shot cast performed “They Keep Coming”, a song from the musical revue Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope by Micki Grant. The song was selected as a tribute to all who participated in the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom. In addition, the song was intended to honor everyone who has marched and worked in any place, at any time for racial justice. And it invites the viewers to take our place within that march and affirm that we too will keep coming. An inspiring rendition of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” sung by a cast member, followed.
The evening concluded with a presentation of “Unchained” a short play by special guest artist Tajleed Hardy who is an MFA student at the University of Louisville. In addition to its message of maintaining connections within the African American community and connections to Africa, the play provided additional examples to the young people of how to tell their story.
“We are delighted to have partnered in this amazing program that made such a good use of our Conference Center space,” stated Ruling Elder Kathy Lueckert, president of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation. “The young people brought energy and excitement to the Presbyterian Center. We loved having them around. Thanks to our employees who helped make this event happen. Thanks to Media Pros Production, the Roots 101 African American Museum, and the Louisville Central Community Center for the opportunity to partner with them in this important way. We look forward to finding new opportunities to work together.”
“I teach the future, not the past. And if I teach the future, we won’t repeat the past,” noted Lamont Collins, founder of the Roots 101 African American Museum. As he closed the preview evening, Collins observed, “The greatest king plants shade trees, knowing he will never sit under them.”
Shade trees were planted during the Trailblazers Program. Shade trees that will impact the future of the young participants, the leaders, and us all.
1963-Still: Same Shot will premiere on July 28, 2023 at 5:00 pm at the Roots 101 African American Museum. The premiere is free and open to the public. Plans are being made to livestream the premiere.
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