Tag: John Lewis

Meet Dawn Porter, Filmmaker Behind Netflix Documentary Series “Bobby Kennedy For President”

<p>Dawn Porter</p>
Filmmaker Dawn Porter (Chance Yeh/Getty Images)

On April 4, 1968, Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy took to the stage in Indianapolis, Indiana to tell the mostly Black crowd that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated.

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country,” Kennedy said that evening. “Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

Two months later, Kennedy was killed — shot to death in Los Angeles, moments after winning California’s Democratic presidential primary.

While Kennedy has been lionized as the rare politician who could bring together working-class whites, African-Americans, and Latinx voters, his transformation from being openly suspicious of those in the civil rights movements to being one of its biggest supporters is one of the most interesting components of filmmaker Dawn Porter’s last project, Bobby Kennedy For President. 

In the four-part Netflix documentary series, Porter uses archival footage and interviews with people like Harry Belafonte, activist Dolores Huerta, and Congressman John Lewis to chronicle Kennedy’s rise through the ranks to become one of the most beloved figures in American history, particularly for scores of Black people.

“He’s a really fascinating historical figure,” Porter tells ESSENCE. “I’ve always been interested in politics. Career-wise, a lot of my films deal with social justice, and I felt like this one dealt with social justice from a different perspective.”

According to Porter — who has covered topics like abortion, the criminal justice system, and fatherhood in her work — Kennedy’s influence on many prominent African-Americans, like former Attorney General Eric Holder, prompted her to delve deeper into his life.

“In our initial research into the story, when I saw what a difference civil rights leaders made in his life, it meant that made a difference in all of our lives and I wanted to add in their voices to this history,” she says. “He’s a very compelling figure and it was just a rich opportunity to dig into the archives as a filmmaker, but to also tell the story through a different lens.”

While many look to Kennedy’s life and ability to bring people together as an example of the type of coalition they’d like to build in the future, Porter says his life can teach us a valuable lesson right now about extending people grace and room to grow.

“We’re awfully quick these days to label people and keep them in a box and I think that that doesn’t serve any of us well,” Porter explains. “All of us are complicated, but if we’re smart and mature we all evolve. I think what you see with Bobby Kennedy is his evolution, but you have to understand the beginning to deeply appreciate the end.”

Under his leadership at the Justice Department, Kennedy authorized the surveillance of African-American leaders like Dr. King, who was considered a threat to the nation. However, as he forged relationships with people in the movement like Belafonte, Huerta, and writer James Baldwin, his perspectives began to shift. Soon, Kennedy would send federal marshals to Mississippi to protect the Freedom Riders, and later, would commit himself to healing America’s racial divisions. Kennedy’s shift in his commitment to racial justice made Porter even more enthralled by his life.

“I appreciated the end so much when I understood that history,” she says. “The fact that the man who authorized the wiretap of Martin Luther King, Jr. would then break Cesar Chavez‘s fast, would march with Dolores Huerta during the grape strikes and would announce Martin Luther King’s death to a largely Black audience in Indianapolis. Those are seminal moments in our history, but I think they’re made even richer and deeper and more meaningful because that’s not where he began.”

Many wonder what America would have looked like had Kennedy survived and gone on to the White House. “Had Kennedy lived we wouldn’t have had Nixon, Watergate, Bush, or Trump,” Huerta said in a recent interview. “Kennedy was a different kind of individual. He believed in bringing people together. He was not divisive, he was a uniter.”

For Porter, the nation’s current political climate makes it the perfect time to reflect on Kennedy’s life. “Bobby Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr. were always really, really important in marginalized communities, in the African-American community,” she told PBS. “And I thought what a great time to explore that legacy, at a time when politics feels so dark and when so many people… are so impacted by the political discourse of today.”

Now that Porter has tackled Kennedy’s complex life in Bobby Kennedy For President, she’s hoping to reclaim a little of her time and work on a project about yet another impactful politician, California Congresswoman Maxine Waters. As she explores her next potential subject, Porter says she just appreciates the opportunity to make films that matter, and support other Black folks in the business, too.

“I’m just grateful the offers are coming and the projects are coming and I’m also interested in sharing that love,” she tells ESSENCE. “As Ava DuVernay always says, ‘It’s no fun being the only.”’ It’s important that there are many of us with many visions because there’s not one way to be Black.”

Source: https://www.essence.com/entertainment/dawn-porter-black-woman-netflix-bobby-kennedy-president

PBS to Air Documentary on Iconic Civil Rights Leader John Lewis this February

john-lewis
Congressman John Lewis (photo via eurweb.com)

article by Ny Magee via eurweb.com

Georgia congressman John Lewis is finally getting what many believe to be the TV treatment he deserves. The civil rights icon is the focus of a forthcoming new documentary set to air on PBS.

Get In The Way: The Journey of John Lewis” aims to tell the story of the civil rights pioneer, who led a 26-hour sit-in for gun control, marched with Dr. King, challenged political houses and continues to fight for human rights, per Jetmag.com.

According to the film’s website, it offers a “highly personalized narrative of an epic chapter in U.S. history.”  The biographical documentary will air on PBS as part of the network’s Black History Month programming.

“He is the moving, roaring protector of the rights afforded to every person in this nation. Get in the Way arrives at the perfect time,” actress and activist Alfre Woodard is quoted as saying in the documentary highlights.

“Get In The Way” airs on Feb. 10.

To read full article, go to: http://www.eurweb.com/2017/01/john-lewis-pbs-air-documentary-iconic-civil-rights-leader/#

FEATURE: How the Decades-Long Fight for a National African-American Museum Was Won

The museum, foreground, was designed by David Adjaye and sits on the National Mall near the Washington Monument, right. (MATT ROTH FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)
The museum, foreground, was designed by David Adjaye and sits on the National Mall near the Washington Monument, right. (MATT ROTH FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)

article by Graham Bowley via nytimes.com

Eleven years ago, Lonnie G. Bunch III was a museum director with no museum.  No land. No building. Not even a collection.

He had been appointed to lead the nascent National Museum of African American History and Culture. The concept had survived a bruising, racially charged congressional battle that stretched back decades and finally ended in 2003 when President George W. Bush authorized a national museum dedicated to the African-American experience.

Now all Mr. Bunch and a team of colleagues had to do was find an unprecedented number of private donors willing to finance a public museum. They had to secure hundreds of millions of additional dollars from a Congress, Republican controlled, that had long fought the project.

And they had to counter efforts to locate the museum not at the center of Washington’s cultural landscape on the National Mall, but several blocks offstage.  “I knew it was going to be hard, but not how hard it was going to be,” Mr. Bunch, 63, said in an interview last month.

Visitors to the $540 million building, designed to resemble a three-tiered crown, will encounter the sweeping history of black America from the Middle Passage of slavery to the achievements and complexities of modern black life.

But also compelling is the story of how the museum itself came to be through a combination of negotiation, diplomacy, persistence and cunning political instincts.  The strategy included an approach that framed the museum as an institution for all Americans, one that depicted the black experience, as Mr. Bunch often puts it, as “the quintessential American story” of measured progress and remarkable achievement after an ugly period of painful oppression.

The tactics included the appointment of Republicans like Laura Bush and Colin L. Powell to the museum’s board to broaden bipartisan support beyond Democratic constituencies, and there were critical efforts to shape the thinking of essential political leaders.

After Congress authorized the new museum, the Smithsonian's Board of Regents considered four possible locations before choosing a site on the National Mall near the Washington Monument. (Source: Smithsonian Institution. By Anjali Singhvi, The New York Times)
After Congress authorized the new museum, the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents considered four possible locations before choosing a site on the National Mall near the Washington Monument. (Source: Smithsonian Institution. By Anjali Singhvi, The New York Times)

Long before its building was complete, for example, the museum staged exhibitions off-site, some on the fraught topics it would confront, such as Thomas Jefferson’s deep involvement with slavery. A Virginia delegation of congressional members was brought through for an early tour of the Jefferson exhibition, which featured a statue of him in front of a semicircular wall marked with 612 names of people he had owned.  “I remember being very impacted,” said Eric Cantor, then the House Republican leader, who was part of the delegation.

Mr. Bunch said that he hoped the Jefferson exhibition pre-empted criticism by establishing the museum’s bold but balanced approach to difficult material. “Some people were like, ‘How dare you equate Jefferson with slavery,’” he recalled. “But it means that people are going to say, ‘Of course, that is what they have to do.’”

And the museum began an exceptional effort to raise money from black donors, not only celebrities, like Michael Jordan ($5 million) and Oprah Winfrey ($12 million), but also churches, sororities and fraternities, which, Mr. Bunch said, had never been asked for big donations before. Continue reading “FEATURE: How the Decades-Long Fight for a National African-American Museum Was Won”

Ava DuVernay, Melissa Harris-Perry, Black Lives Matter & More to be Honored at Revolution Awards for Black History Month

2015-02-03-06-24-27.jpgHarlem-based cinema foundation ImageNation will honor the brightest entertainers and advocates who exude “Black Excellence” during the annual Revolution Awards, set to take place in New York next month.

The awards’ theme, eloquently titled Cocktails, Cinema & Revolutionwill honor famed director Ava DuVernay, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-PerryBlack Lives Matter, and actor Hill Harper on Feb. 10.

ImageNation founder Moikgantsi Kgama shared her thoughts about how this year’s show will tie into Black History Month.

The Revolution Awards came to fruition in 2003, honoring the accomplishments of activists, actors, and artists who step outside the box to help improve Black and Latino communities. Past honorees and participants include Spike Lee, Congressman John Lewis, Erykah Badu, Lee DanielsTalib Kweli, and the late Ruby Dee.

“History is being made everyday. This event celebrates Black History Month by recognizing our most inspiring change agents while highlighting ImageNation’s newest monthly film program Cocktails & Cinema. I am looking forward to the Revolution Awards returning to an epic evening of honoring those who make a difference,” said Kgama.

In addition to the awards, the film 1982, starring Hill Harper, Sharon Leal, Wayne Brady, Troi Zee, La La Anthony and Ruby Dee, will be screened. The movie stars Harper as a father protecting his daughter from his wife’s battle with drug addiction.  Harper will also engage in a discussion of the film with director Tommy Oliver, image activist Michaela Angela Davis, and noted psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere.

The event is open to the public. To find out how you can be part of the magic during Black History Month, get a ticket here and find out more about ImageNation’s 20-year legacy here.

article by Desire Thompson via newsone.com

U.S. Navy To Name Ship After Civil Rights Leader and Congressman John Lewis

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, left, talks with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday to announce that the next generation of fleet replenishment oilers will be named the USNS John Lewis, after the civil rights movement leader and Georgia's 5th District representative. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, left, talks with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., during a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday to announce that the next generation of fleet replenishment oilers will be named the USNS John Lewis, after the civil rights movement leader and Georgia’s 5th District representative. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The U.S. Navy will honor civil rights icon and Georgia congressman John Lewis in a big way — by naming a replenishment oiler ship after the leader.

The announcement — delivered by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus — was made Wednesday afternoon in Washington D.C. Lewis, who tweeted he was “grateful” for the honor, reportedly cried when he was informed of the idea months ago.

According to NBC:

“As the first of its class, the future USNS John Lewis will play a vital role in the mission of our Navy and Marine Corps while also forging a new path in fleet replenishment,” said Mabus. “Naming this ship after John Lewis is a fitting tribute to a man who has, from his youth, been at the forefront of progressive social and human rights movements in the U.S., directly shaping both the past and future of our nation.”

Lewis cried when Mabus stopped by his office a few months ago to share what was then an idea, he told NBCBLK. “He said, ‘I have been so moved and inspired by your work and others during the civil rights movement. My idea is to name a ship in your honor,’” Lewis said. When the surprised congressman asked him, “How can you do this,” Mabus responded, “I am the Secretary of the Navy; I have the power.”

https://twitter.com/repjohnlewis/status/684841235807354881/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Naming the ship after the civil rights leader is a first in many ways — the USNS John Lewis is said to be the “first of the next generation” of fleet replenishment oilers (T-AO-205), measuring more than 677 feet long and 97.5 feet wide. They are responsible for providing fuel and fleet cargo to ships at sea, NBC reports. The new generation of ships will all be named after Civil Rights heroes, a first also announced by Lewis’ office.

The irony of a ship donning his name is not lost on Lewis, 75, who told NBC he never actually learned to swim.

“In Troy, we couldn’t use the swimming pool, so I never learned to swim,” he said. “All these years later, to hear the Secretary of the Navy say he wanted to name a ship after me — we cried a little together and we hugged.”

I believe in freedom. I believe so much that people should be free. I was prepared to give it everything I had,” he said. “I didn’t do anything special. I just got in trouble. It was good trouble. It was necessary trouble. My parents would tell us, ‘Don’t get in the way.’ I just tried to help out.”

It is that focus on freedom that Mabus says will live within USNS John Lewis.

“T-AO 205 will, for decades to come, serve as a visible symbol of the freedoms Representative Lewis holds dear, and his example will live on in the steel of that ship and in all those who will serve aboard her, ” said Mabus.

Lewis, who is widely known for his role in the Freedom Rides of the 1960s and for serving as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was elected to Congress in 1986. The leader, who often demonstrated alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was also a keynote speaker at 1963’s March on Washington.

It is Lewis who, bloodied and beaten, can be seen in historic and disturbing photographs from Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. State troopers beat Black activists attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965 into Montgomery. Lewis, only 24 at the time, led the march with activist Hosea Williams.

SOURCE: NBC

article by Christina Coleman via newsone.com

Emory University School of Law to Name an Endowed Chair in Honor of John Lewis

Civil Rights leader and Congressman John Lewis (Photo via black
Civil Rights leader and Congressman John Lewis (Photo via history.com)

The Emory University School of Law has announced that it is establishing an endowed chair to honor civil rights legend and Georgia Congressman John Lewis. The John Lewis Chair in Civil Rights and Social Justice will be funded by an anonymous $1.5 million donation. The law school will raise an additional $500,000 to fully fund the professorship.

Robert Shapiro, dean of the law school, said that “this gift will allow us to perform a nationwide search and name a professor who will further scholarship on the issues of civil rights and social justice. Through this chair, we are honored to recognize Congressman’s Lewis’ historical achievements in these vital areas.

John Lewis was a keynote speaker at the 1963 March on Washington. As chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Lewis was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on Bloody Sunday in March 1965. He has served his Atlanta district in Congress since 1987.

The anonymous donor stated that “John Lewis exemplifies the values of courage, commitment, dignity, humanity, fairness and equal opportunity that were and are the hallmarks of the movement. Congressman Lewis is an inspiration to us as he continues to speak out against injustice and to fight for equality and civil rights. Atlanta holds an important place in the history of civil rights in the U.S. and John Lewis is a central figure in that history; we hope that a professorship at Emory Law School in his name will in some small way help to continue the good and great work that he has done these last 50 years.”

article via jbhe.com

50 Years Later, Obama Salutes Effects of Civil Rights Act

President Obama, with Michelle Obama, the library director, Mark K. Updegrove, left, and Representative John Lewis. (DOUG MILLS/THE NEW YORK TIMES)
President Obama, with Michelle Obama, the library director, Mark K. Updegrove, left, and Representative John Lewis. (DOUG MILLS/THE NEW YORK TIMES)

AUSTIN, Tex. — For three days, the veterans of a long-ago movement reunited and drew together their spiritual heirs to explore the legacy of the Civil Rights Act a half-century after it transformed America. And then the legacy walked onstage.

President Obama presented himself on Thursday as the living, walking, talking and governing embodiment of the landmark 1964 law that banned discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin.

In a speech that stirred an audience of civil rights champions here at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, Mr. Obama acknowledged that racism has hardly been erased and that government programs have not always succeeded. But, he added, “I reject such cynicism because I have lived out the promise of L.B.J.’s efforts, because Michelle has lived out the legacy of those efforts, because my daughters have lived out the legacy of those efforts.”

Thanks to the law and the movement that spawned it and the progress made after it, Mr. Obama said, “new doors of opportunity and education swung open for everybody,” regardless of race, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation. “They swung open for you, and they swung open for me,” he said. “And that’s why I’m standing here today, because of those efforts, because of that legacy.”

The president’s speech marking the 50th anniversary of the law Johnson signed in July 1964 was one more moment for Mr. Obama to address his own role in history. Though Mr. Obama often seemed reluctant to be drawn into discussions of race relations in his first term, insistent on being the president of everyone, he has been more open in talking about it since winning re-election.

Continue reading “50 Years Later, Obama Salutes Effects of Civil Rights Act”

Whitney Young Documentary On PBS Tells Story Of Unsung Civil Rights Leader

 Whitney Young Documentary

WASHINGTON — Just before the March on Washington in 1963, President John F. Kennedy summoned six top civil rights leaders to the White House to talk about his fears that civil rights legislation he was moving through Congress might be undermined if the march turned violent.

Whitney Young Jr. cut through the president’s uncertainty with three questions: “President Kennedy, which side are you on? Are you on the side of George Wallace of Alabama? Or are you on the side of justice?”  One of those leaders, John Lewis, later a longtime congressman from Georgia, tells the story of Young’s boldness in “The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights,” a documentary airing during Black History Month on the PBS series “Independent Lens” and shown in some community theaters.

Continue reading “Whitney Young Documentary On PBS Tells Story Of Unsung Civil Rights Leader”

Maya Angelou and John Lewis Named 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom Honorees

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Poet Maya Angelou and civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga, are among the 2010 winners of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.  President Barack Obama will present the awards to them and the other thirteen honorees early next year, the White House announced Wednesday.  Other winners include President H.W. Bush, investor Warren Buffett, plus St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan “The Man” Musial, Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.  Obama’s bipartisan gesture in picking the first President Bush for the honor is not unprecedented. Former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, awarded a Medal of Freedom to former Republican President Gerald Ford.

“These outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds and they’ve excelled in a broad range of fields, but all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place,” Obama said. “I look forward to awarding them this honor.”  The medal is presented to people who have made notable contributions to U.S. interests, from cultural achievements to security matters.  The full list of winners:

–George H.W. Bush was America’s 41st president, and previously vice president and CIA director. He also worked with Clinton to raise money for victims Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

–Merkel is the first woman and first East German to serve as chancellor of a unified Germany.

–Musial is a Hall of Fame first baseman who played 22 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals.

–Russell is the former captain of the Boston Celtics and first black man to become an NBA head coach.

–Yo-Yo Ma is a world renowned cellist who has won 16 Grammy awards and is known for his interpretations of Bach and Beethoven. He played at Obama’s inauguration.

–Lewis served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and helped organize the first lunch-counter sit-in. In 1965 he led the Selma-to-Montgomery, Ala., march for voting rights and was brutally beaten along with others in what became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

–Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, is a famed investor known as the “Oracle of Omaha” for his prescient business sense. He is also a generous philanthropist.

–Angelou is a prominent poet, educator, filmmaker, producer and civil rights activist.

— Jasper Johns, an American artist whose work has dealt with themes of perception and identity. He is considered a major influence on pop, minimal and conceptual art.

–Gerda Weissmann Klein, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who founded Citizenship Counts, an organization that teaches students to cherish the value of their American citizenship.

–Dr. Tom Little, an optometrist murdered last August by the Taliban in Afghanistan as he and nine others returned from a mission to provide eye care in the Parun valley of Nuristan. The award is being given posthumously to Little.

–Sylvia Mendez, a civil rights activist of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent.

–Jean Kennedy Smith, a Kennedy family member who served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland and is the founder of VSA, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that promotes the artistic talents of children and adults with disabilities.

–John Sweeney, AFL-CIO president from 1995-2009.

–John H. Adams, who in 1970 co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council, a prominent environmental advocacy group.

article content via Associated Press and businessweek.com