We Shall Overcome: With the help of great books and movies that help us remember history

Last night I saw Lee Daniel’s The Butler¬†and it was a privilege.

The story takes on a sweeping scope of civil rights history from the point of view of Cecil Gaines, a White House butler, from his cotton field origins in 1926 to the present day. You can see the timeline here. The film is an amazing juxtaposition of Cecil’s life and the life of his son Louis. Louis, leaves for college and joins the Freedom Riders. He sits at the all white counters of Woolworths.

Teachers interested in this time period should look at Andrea Davis Pinkney’s, SIT IN.

Louis’s activism lands him in prison with Dr. King, and leads him to the Black Panthers.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail is available in book form and on the internet.
Do not miss Rita Williams-Garcia’s, ONE CRAZY SUMMER.

The whole time, his father is serving white presidents and their guests, excelling at a profession that requires him to be invisible. The fabulous editing of this film allows the viewer to see the “subversive, not subservient” (a line from Dr. King in the movie) contribution of the butler on the path to equality. While many in the African-American movie have been concerned about the constant characterization of Blacks as maids and butlers, I found the back and forth between Cecil and his son balancing.

Kadir Nelson’s fabulous illustrations are always awe inspiring.

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The timing of the film release, so close to the 50th Anniversary of The March on Washington, could not have been accidental, and while I wish that my 12 and 14 year olds had been in the theater with me (They wanted to see Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters and came out hating it. “Nothing like the book.”) I’m even more pleased to see that THE WATSON’S GO TO BIRMINGHAM has been made into a Hallmark movie to air on September 20th.


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Mr. Sharp and Mr. Schu have an amazing post and giveaway at Watch. Connect. Read.¬†about the movie. They post a link to teacher resources and a great collection of video interviews with Christopher Paul Curtis, the cast, and other folks involved in the making of the movie. I hope you’ll check it out. The most moving moment in the trailer is this quote from Bryce Clyde Jenkins, the young actor who plays Kenny Watson.

“The thing that I like most about this story is that it’s a real historical event. This allows people to get a perspective of what people went through so people like me could be where they are now. It’s a really life changing lesson. It makes you feel grateful for what you have.”

Go see Lee Daniel’s The Butler. Then, on Friday, September 20th is a Friday make a date with your children, or have a house party and invite the neighborhood to see and discuss The Watson’s Go to Birmingham. You won’t be sorry.

Packet number one deadline approacheth

Hello out there in LJ land. Just a quick posting (perhaps we will number it.)
1. I have one week left to complete two critical essays, 20-40 new pages of writing, a quickee autobiography and a sincere letter of progress to the awesome Sharron Darrow. Everything is started, nothing is finished. (I’m starting to grind my teeth at night again.)

2. My Maine homecoming has been absolutely awesome. I’ve managed to connect with so many people who are welcoming us home with open arms. I feel so thankful to be a part of this community (and I love being in MY house again.)

3. If you are close by, you are invited to our first once a month potluck. We all say we are too busy to make time for each other, but friendships are what life is all about. Email or comment if you need more info!

4. I’ve had the DVD "Penelope" on my counter for over a month from Netflix (even in Maryland) so I finally watched it tonight. LOVED IT. It has that weird super saturated art direction of Pushing Up Daisies.

5. So here’s the awful part. "Penelope" is rated PG, I thought my kids would love it. I’d never seen it before. So we’re watching and there is this one part. Takes about 3 seconds, when the smarmy rich guy (who saw Penelope once and got scared and thought she was a monster) re- imagines Penelope as a monster with fangs and scary eyes and a boarish face. He sees this monster in his imagination through a car window in the dark. OMG my boys (10 and 8) shriek and scream and start to sob like someone is coming after them with a chainsaw. They run to my chair and hug me and sob and shake (for what seems an eternity but was probably all of 10 minutes) and all I can do is apologize over and over and hold them and love them and validate their fear. Now they are in my bed and I’m stuck sleeping with kids who are each almost 5 feet tall.

Okay so that’s five on Wednesday. I’ll be back after my deadline is past.