Film screening to mark King Day observance

An award-winning film, a discussion with the foremost authority on violence in America and a lecture by a distinguished theologian are among the offerings in a series of workshops and presentations at Bates College Jan. 18 -19 to honor the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The public is invited to attend all events free of charge.   On Jan. 19, following a 90-minute screening of Follow Me Home starring Alfre Woodard, the film’s distributor will lead a discussion with the audience. The screening begins at 9 a.m. in Alumni Gymnasium, preceded by a Continental breakfast at 8 a.m. in the building’s lobby.

Follow Me Home, directed by Peter Bratt, follows four street-smart artists — two Chicano cousins, an African American and a Native American — on a cross-country road trip. The group’s mission is to paint a mural of “vibrant colors” on the White House, but the trip soon becomes a spiritual quest when they are forced to confront conflicts within themselves and with each other.

Despite its selection as an official entry by the 1996 Sundance Festival, winning the Audience Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival and its special Hollywood screening hosted by Woodard, the production was passed over by every major film distribution company in the country. Inspired by Follow Me Home, attorney and activist Henri F. Norris founded New Millenia Films to take the movie to audiences one or two cities at a time.

Spirited post-film discussions after almost every screening, led by Norris or the director and actors, created what Norris likes to think of as a “grassroots hit.” She likens the post-screening discussions to a “town meeting” on race, where “question and answer sessions allow the audiences to get involved. They don’t just go home after the credits roll. They talk about their feelings.”

Author Alice Walker called the movie “a survival film. It’s the kind of film we need to get ourselves out of the mess we’re in.” In addition to her new role as film distributor, Norris practiced law as a partner in the Dalkon Shield Joint Venture Litigation Group that pursued the multi-billion dollar product liability litigation against the manufacturer of the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device. She also founded Transcultural Communications to promote program opportunities for people of color and produced a variety of film projects, including the documentary Voices of the Civil Rights Movement. As a member of the new pantheon of African-American filmmakers, producers and distributors, Norris has been featured in a number of publications including The Village Voice, The New York Times, The Nation and Black Enterprise Magazine.

Following the film and discussion, there will be a series of workshops and presentations by visiting scholars and by Bates students, faculty and staff. Two series of concurrent workshops, the first scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. and the second from 3 to 5 p.m., take place at locations around campus. A complete schedule follows.

Concurrent Workshops I from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

  • Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, assistant dean of government and community programs at the Harvard School of Public Health, leads a discussion on violence as a public health epidemic. The preeminent authority on the subject of violence in our society, Prothrow-Stith is the author of Deadly Consequences, a book based on her research. Through the Community Violence Prevention Project, she is developing a user-friendly guide Peace by Peace: A Guide for Preventing Community Violence. Location: Chase Hall Lounge.
  • Duke Ellington and the Civil Rights Movement,” by Marcus Bruce, associate professor of philosophy and religion, American cultural studies and African American studies, and Thomas Hayward, humanities reference librarian and lecturer in classics. Location: Carnegie Science 113.
  • “Sacred Lies, Civil Truths”: Homophobia, Racism and Hate Referenda, convened by the art department, includes the viewing of a video concerned with a gay rights referendum in Oregon. Location: Olin Arts Center 104
  • Luis Bunuel’s The Young One, convened by Baltasar Fra-Molinero, assistant professor of Spanish, features the only film Bunuel ever made in this country — in English — followed by a discussion. The film tells the story of a black musician, fleeing from the racist police in New Orleans, and a white man on one of the coastal islands, who hates him. Location: Carnegie 204
  • Readings from the works of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., organized by Paula Matthews, associate librarian, and the staff of Ladd Library. All are invited to participate in this public reading of the works of the late King. Location: Ladd Library
  • Marking Others: An Examination of Japan’s Oppressed Eta Minority, convened by Keiko Ofuji, an instructor in Japanese at Bates. The session includes the viewing of The River With No Bridge, a 1992 film by Yoichi Higachi, followed by a discussion centered on the singling out of minority groups for oppression. Location: Olin 105. Note: This session runs from 1 to 4 p.m.

Concurrent Workshops II from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

  • A discussion about race, gender and natural sciences with Marilyn Suiter, director of education and human resources at the American Geological Association. Location: Carnegie Science 113.
  • Lift Every Voice: John Preston Davis and the National Negro Congress, a 1991 film by Robert Branham, professor of speech and rhetoric, and Melissa Friedling, documents the life of a 1926 Bates College alumnus who fought for social and racial justice. A discussion with members of the history department, including Hilmar Jensen, assistant professor of history, who is interviewed in the film and recently completed a biography of Davis, will follow the film. Location: Carnegie Science 204.
  • A Class Divided: A Discussion and Workshop convened by the Bates sociology department, features a documentary on the reunion of Iowa teacher Jane Elliott and her third-grade class of 1970, subjects that year of an ABC News documentary The Eye of the Storm. The film explores the lasting effect of an experimental curriculum on the evils of discrimination. Location: Coram Library 1.
  • Experiencing Race in English Class: A Student-Faculty Discussion, convened by the Bates English department and the English Council. Location: Hirasawa Lounge, Chase Hall.

Also planned for Jan. 19:

  • At 7 p.m. in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall is a dance performance commissioned in honor of King by first-year student Zoia Cisneros of Naples. A reception follows in the lobby of Olin Arts Center.
  • At 8 p.m. in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, Robert Branham, professor of theater and rhetoric, will present Sweet Freedom’s Song: A Multimedia Lecture and Performance.
  • At 6:45 p.m. Jan. 18 in the College Chapel the Rev. Imani-Sheila Newsome-McLaughlin, dean of student life at Boston University School of Theology, delivers the annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture, with music by the Bates Community Gospel Ensemble and Cultured Voices. A reception and conversation with Newsome-MacLaughlin follow at 8 p.m. in the Edmund S. Muskie Archives.

Bates takes a special interest in events related to King because one of the civil rights leader’s mentors was the late Benjamin E. Mays, a 1920 Bates graduate. Mays was the long-time president of Morehouse College, King’s alma mater, and a lifelong adviser to King, who was assassinated in 1968. Mays delivered the eulogy at King’s funeral.

The events at Bates commemorate the birthday of King, who would have been 69 on Jan. 15. There will be no classes at Bates Jan. 19 to allow students and the rest of the college community to participate in the public events and discussions in observance of King’s birthday.

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