Sunday, September 20, 2009

DNWA at Auburn and SC State

As the Dare Not Walk Alone (DNWA) tour has been moving through the south, a national debate about race has been building thanks to the “You lie” outburst by Congressman Joe Wilson during President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress.
In addition to being totally disrespectful and bringing dishonor to himself, his state and his party, Joe Wilson has opened a debate that has been brewing in this country since the landslide election of President Obama.
Like most Americans I experienced a feeling of national pride and unity on November 4th 2008 when Obama was elected president, it was palpable, electric and real. I have never felt that much patriotism and belief in my country as I did that night celebrating with complete strangers in the streets of Brooklyn. My fears of a potential white backlash washed away during the inauguration a few months later, and I started to believe that maybe we had come further than I thought.
Enter Joe Wilson.
Now, no one can say definitively whether Wilson’s comment was race based, but it really doesn’t matter. He has given voice to though who truly do have deep seated racist feelings, and this is what makes it so devastating. We have seen the images of Obama as Hitler, but now we also see him as witch doctor, in “white face” (a clear racial slur) and people questioning everything from his birth to calling him racist in chief. No matter what side of politics one is on, we can all agree that this is not how we should treat someone who has reached this high office.
I have no problem with people disagreeing on issues of policy and engaging in honest debate, that is what makes a democracy work. But this is going well beyond real issues and reveals the dark lingering racism that has plagued this country since its beginning.
Those who want to believe that we solved all our racial problems during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s must rethink how far we have come.
So it is with great pride that we continue to show DNWA and engage in honest discussion with those at our screenings, Auburn and South Carolina State were no different.
Both screenings were attended mostly by students and it is this generation that will truly do the job of changing hearts and minds which is the only way to eradicate the legacy of slavery, segregation and continued bigotry. As stated in the film, “You can pass all the laws you want, but if you don’t change the heart, you don’t change anything.”
In Auburn we screened at the beautiful Jule Collins Smith Museum of Art, that could double for a smaller version of the Getty. After the screening and discussion the students at Auburn decided to start a letter writing campaign to get the city of St. Augustine (where the film takes place) to return the slave market back to its name instead of calling it the flower market.
And at SC State, a historically black college, the student were adamant about being part of the solution and becoming overcomers, believing that no one has written their destiny for them. This screening was also interesting because the film was screened in a planetarium and projected on the round ceiling.
Now on to UNF in Jacksonville, Fl