Fifty years ago today was the first of the four days of what is now known as the “Children’s Crusade” when hundreds of students in Birmingham, Alabama took the streets to challenge the prevailing segregation laws. Last night the MPAA and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) co-hosted a panel discussion and screening of the Academy Award®-winning documentary short Mighty Times: The Children’s March about this pivotal event of the Civil Rights movement. The Children’s March is a joint production of the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance program and HBO. Special guests included Julian Bond (Former Board Chair of the NAACP and SPLC’s first President), Richard Cohen (current SPLC President), Rev. Gwendolyn C. Webb (Founder, Foot Soldiers International), Ebony Howard (SPLC Attorney), and Lecia Brooks (SPLC Outreach Director).
MPAA Chairman and CEO Senator Chris Dodd shared with the audience that the MPAA theater exists “not only to screen movies; we use this room and this building to educate, and to motivate, and to stimulate.” Through this documentary and the panel discussion that followed, the MPAA and the SPLC transported the audience back to a time of extreme uncertainty, upheaval, and violence in America; a time when heroic school children braved fire hoses, police dogs, and repeated arrested for their equality.
The SPLC has sent this award-winning documentary and corresponding teaching materials to over 100,000 schools across the country through its Teaching Tolerance program – free of charge - showing once again the power of film to educate and to inspire. Richard Cohen, with his Oscar® in hand explained, “There is something else that we receive in connection with this film every day, and that is envelopes with letters and cards from teachers all over the country, talking about how the film is making a difference in their classrooms." A teacher is North Carolina wrote, “The film opened the eyes of their students to how much power they really had.”
From Left to Right: Lecia Brooks, Julian Bond, Rev. Gwendolyn C. Webb, and Ebony Howard
Photo Credit: Jon Black