It was an incredible trip touring I Will Dance on the Southern Circuit. All of my hosts, as well as the people I was given the opportunity to meet, were welcoming and generous. Below are my top 10 highlights, in no particular order:
1. “I WILL” Cards
At the end of each showing, we handed out and invited everyone in the audience to share their stories by writing down a personal commitment. Seeing what people wrote on their cards always touched and inspired me. Here are a few: I WILL live cage free. I WILL strive to be the best I can be. I WILL stand up and stand out. What’s YOURS?
2. Central BBQ in Memphis: “Go where the locals go”
I asked them what the best thing on the menu was, and without hesitating the employee said, “you have to try the pork sandwich.” I did. And my tastebuds were happy.
3.The Kentucky Bed and Breakfast
It was unique and antique, with an illuminated stained-glass bed hanging, a trombone on the wall and homemade quiche for breakfast. What’s not to love?
4. The Diversity
One thing I loved about the tour was the wide range of screening venues and audiences. In downtown Memphis, we screened at the beautiful Halloran Centre in their state-of-the-art theatre. The very next venue was an old simple church in a small town. Some audiences were primarily students of color while others were older and white. Every experiences was unique (and terrific!).
5. The Civil Rights Museum
I had an extra day in Memphis, so I decided to spend part of it at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. To stand in that spot was an unforgettable, emotional experience.
6. Live Music
Remember the old church? As part of the pre-film reception, my hosts went all out by including a live jam session! One bucket-list item crossed off the list…
7. Heartwarming reactions
During a Q&A, one woman grabbed the mic and talked about the courage of the kids in I Will Dance to stand up for what they believed in. Choking back tears and with resolve in her voice, she said, “I want to dance with those kids on the bridge.” The showing was only a couple hours from Selma, where the kids are from and her interest in putting her feet to their cause means more than I can simply express.
8. Seeing friends
Since several showings were within a few hours of Selma, some of the film’s subjects joined for showings and Q&As. Their unique voices and perspectives were a HUGE addition to the experience for the audiences and a big support to me.
9. Feet in the Ocean
When I arrived in Bonita Springs, FL, I had about an hour before the screening, and I knew exactly how to spend it.
10. Meeting Future Storytellers
At the showings, I had the pleasure to meet young people who want to tell stories– to become editors, journalists, directors and more. They are the future, and if the story of I Will Dance inspired any one of them to create, question or dream more, the trip was more than worth it for them alone.