JACKSON, MISS. – (July 19, 2019) – A filmmaker’s workshop for high school students in the Delta, that stems from the multimodal project, Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, has received two additional grants for its 2020 summer course. The program received a $15,000 grant from the Phil Hardin Foundation earlier this year. And in June, the Mississippi Humanities Council awarded $3,000 to the Sunflower County Film Academy and Hope Enterprise Corporation of Jackson, contributed $1,000 to the effort.
“Mrs. Hamer’s unparalleled resilience, along with her ability to organize her fellow citizens in the pursuit of social justice, is a model that HOPE seeks to emulate in our efforts to equip Delta residents with the tools needed to achieve their potential,” said HOPE CEO Bill Bynum.
The Sunflower County Film Academy is a free workshop open to 15 students with an interest in digital arts and broadcast media. Originally named, the Young Filmmaker’s Workshop, the first class was held at Gentry High School in Indianola, in June/July 2018 and was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In conjunction with the mission of the Mississippi Humanities Council, the workshop will also empower a new generation of young people to engage in reflective conversation about modern day injustices and racial healing inspired by activists of the past.
Students of the Find Your Voice filmmakers' academy enjoy meeting Charles McLaurin, who stopped by the workshop to share some of his experiences with Fannie Lou Hamer and the Civil Rights movement.
“The Mississippi Humanities Council is committed to helping communities tell their own stories. We are so excited to help support this workshop that will teach young people in Sunflower County how to document the incredible history of their community,” said Dr. Stuart Rockoff, executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council.
“I feel comfortable and confident in saying Ruleville native Fannie Lou Hamer would have been astounded by this program,” said one of the workshop instructors, Robert Fitzpatrick. “This program is a current representation of what the Freedom Schools, SNCC, the NAACP and all other organizations of this nature would want to see happen.”
Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, which honors the late civil rights icon with a new and original documentary and several educational programs, highlight Hamer’s efforts to ‘build a better Mississippi’, not only by advocating equal voting rights for all and better educational opportunities, but also by her humanitarian efforts of providing housing, clothing and food for the poor in the Mississippi Delta. The MHC awarded a $7,500 grant to the film and educational curriculum in 2017. Both are scheduled for release this year.
During the intensive five-week program, students will be taught the aesthetics of digital studies, including the use of professional-grade production equipment. Working in teams, students will plan and produce short films and schedule, conduct and film their own interviews. Two films the students worked on premiered at two film festivals in 2019, Sundance in Park City, Utah and Crossroads in Madison, Miss. The course also involves learning primary source research, which teaches students how to create their own oral histories while examining civil rights history in their own communities.
Fitzpatrick, a filmmaker from Ruleville, who works to foster the knowledge of local activists like Hamer in his Delta community, said he’s proud of the social impact the workshop made on its freshman class.
“At the beginning of the workshop, when asked what they knew about Fannie Lou Hamer, one student responded with, ‘I don’t even know who that is,’” Fitzpatrick said. “But by the end of the workshop, they became so appreciative for not only what she did, but what others, as well as groups we discussed such as C.O.R.E. and The Black Panther Party accomplished. If it weren’t for programs and institutions doing a work similar or the same as what we’ve been doing through the Mississippi Humanities Council and others helping us in this fight, we’d lose the rest of our history from 1865 to now. So, the young filmmaker’s workshop isn’t just about filmmaking.”
The workshop has two other instructors, filmmakers Dr. Pablo Correa and Joy Davenport. The director and editor of the upcoming documentary, Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, Davenport produced the 2010 film, M.F.D.P about Hamer. Correa, a visiting professor at Willamette University in Oregon, is also the webmaster for Fannie Lou Hamer’s America and like Fitzpatrick, worked as a videographer on the film.
“My biggest joy was hearing three students, who at the beginning of the workshop didn’t know what they wanted to do after graduation, come to me and say they were going to college for digital media and cinematography,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s moments like those that we strive for. It’s far beyond just giving the students a safe place in the summer. It’s far beyond making sure those students get lunch or a meal every day. And it’s far beyond making sure the youth of today stay out of trouble ensuring we have adults for tomorrow. But it’s about maintaining that momentum to continuously provide those things while achieving the goal of creating a pathway for our children to continue after we leave.”
About the Mississippi Humanities Council (MHC):
Founded amidst the turmoil of federally imposed integration, the MHC plays an important role in helping to bring about social change in Mississippi, organizing and supporting interracial meetings and funding grants to communities to discuss desegregation and other important issues. Perhaps more important than funding is the MHC’s ability to offer a state-level legitimacy for such discussions and to serve as an impartial broker among differing points of view.
The Mississippi Humanities Council is a private nonprofit corporation funded by Congress through the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide public programs in traditional liberal arts disciplines to serve nonprofit groups in Mississippi. The humanities are the study of history, literature, religion, languages, philosophy, and culture. The Mississippi Humanities Council creates opportunities for Mississippians to learn about themselves and the larger world and enriches communities through civil conversations about our history and culture.
About Hope Enterprise Corporation:
HOPE is a family of development organizations dedicated to strengthening communities, building assets and improving lives in the Delta and other economically distressed parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Comprised of a regional credit union (Hope Credit Union), loan fund (Hope Enterprise Corporation) and policy center (Hope Policy Institute), HOPE has provided financial services, leveraged private and public resources, and shaped policies that have benefited more than 1 million residents in one of the nation’s most persistently poor regions. Their mission is to strengthen communities, build assets and improve lives in economically distressed areas of the mid-south by providing access to high-quality financial products and related services.
Their vision is to be a community development financial institution that provides a substantial number of low-wealth people and communities with the financial tools and resources needed to achieve a better quality of life; that influences policies and resources that impact our constituents and our interests, and that is financially self-sufficient.