This month in Black History, Rochester’s citizens experienced the debut of two radically different yet strikingly similar independent films.
The first, Carvin Eison’s “Shadows of the Lynching Tree”. According to the website, “The story centers on a brief encounter between two boys, both named Jesse, one black the other white. Following a 1916 incident in Waco, Texas, Jesse Washington, the 17-year-old Black youth, was summarily tried and lynched. The second Jesse, a 10-year-old white lad from James Baldwin’s short story “Going to Meet the Man” is taken by his father to witness the lynching.”
The second film, “THE THROWAWAYS”, co-directed and produced by Ira McKinley, “courageously explores the most pressing racial justice issue of our time: the mass incarceration of poor people of color. ”
Carvin Eison’s film, moves beyond the horror of the lynchings and concentrates instead on the perceptions and attitudes of the children that were taken to see these lynchings as though they were a form of entertainment and what effect that had on their humanity as they grew into adulthood.
The perceptions and attitudes of children was the focus of Ira McKinley’s film as well. Falling prey to the social injustices of an America that is supposed to be free and equal for all of its citizens and freeing oneself from an imposed system of oppression by becoming independent of that system is powerful and McKinley wants children to know that they have the power to overcome the structure of failure in which they have been “hanged”.
Attendees to both events were privileged to be able to speak with the film makers to discuss the effect the history of hatred in America has had and now has on the children growing up in that system.
Both Eison and McKinley understand that we must provide ALL of our children with an excellent education that concentrates on developing their gifts and talents, letting them know we all have something to give to this world to make it better.
Our children must know our history so that they don’t repeat our mistakes.
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