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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Presbyterians help plant shade trees


Trailblazers Program teaches young people film production and racial justice work

September 16, 2023

Young people, ranging in age from 6 to 18, gathered for a week of learning. (Photo by Mark Koenig)

“They keep coming.” The affirmation echoed through the Roots 101 African American Museum on a Friday in July 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 took place at the Presbyterian Center for a week. The film provides a tribute to five pivotal moments in the Civil Rights Movement on their 60th anniversary: the assassination of Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963; the March for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28, 1963; the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church on Sept. 15, 1963; the Chicago Public Schools boycott on Oct. 22, 1963; and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. The film makes 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 during the week. Young people, ranging in age from 6 to 18, gathered for learning and fun. The younger children comprised the cast. The older children worked behind the cameras.

A cast member provided an inspiring rendition of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” as part of the evening. (Photo by Mark Koenig)

“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.

At the end of the week, 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.

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. (Photo by Mark Koenig)

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.

“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.

Mark Koenig, Communications Specialist, Administrative Services Group, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus: Trailblazers Program

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Teresa Mader, Project Manager, Direct Response, Special Offerings/Appeals, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)
Monica Maeyer, Director, Communications, Board of Pensions

Let us pray

O God, you sent your Son to show us how to live in love as the community of faith. Empower us by the Holy Spirit to take action to ensure voices are heard and lives cherished, in both the church and society. Amen.