THIS IS AN IMPORTANT PUBLIC SERVICE NOTICE
Set your video recording devices for February 20, 2018 on PBS. (Or you can just watch it – or both) Time: 8pm (EST), 7pm (CST), 6pm (MST), 5pm (PST) PBS is airing a new series called “We’ll Meet Again” in January. The fifth program in the series is Freedom Summer. It is an hour long and it follows two civil rights projects. One of them is my project in South Carolina in 1965. For more information check out PBS “We’ll Meet Again.”
Here is the trailer, but except for the iconic picture we all know from the Civil Rights Movement, there is nothing from my project yet.
Three times in my life I have felt called. SCOPE called first. (Summer Community Organization and Political Education – this was the project organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led by Martin Luther King, Jr. that I worked on in 1965) Forty years later the call came again, this time to write a book about SCOPE Summer. (You Came Here to Die, Didn’t You.) 2017 brought the call to participate in a new PBS series, “We’ll Meet Again,” produced and reported by Ann Curry. I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to tell part of the SCOPE story.
“We’ll Meet Again” is about the connections people form when they are thrown together by powerful, life-changing circumstances. These connections are dynamic and last over time. “Who do you remember from SCOPE Summer that you have not seen or heard from since?” That was the question I was asked last February by Blink Video, who shot the video for PBS. I had an answer. When I wrote my book I tried to contact and interview everyone involved in the project in Pineville, SC.
I knew my answer immediately: Louis “Lefty” Bryant. When we four white volunteers from the San Francisco area found that we lacked the “soul” and “color” to move people in Pineville to register, we asked Hosea Williams (SCOPE director) to send us someone who could. Lefty arrived. At our training in Atlanta the staff reiterated that we participate in no direct action because we couldn’t register voters from jail. Well, the first thing Lefty got us to do was desegregate local restaurants – or at least try. The last time I saw Lefty, he dropped me off at Allen University in Columbia, SC, in the Fall of 1965 and drove away. I wanted to know what happened to this professional civil rights activist, but my book was not a research project, so I gave up on the search. Now, here was an organization who wanted to do the research to find him and then to reunite us on camera.
The format for the series is similar to “Finding Your Roots” with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. I traveled with a film crew to Berkeley and Santa Barbara, CA, and then to Charleston and Pineville, SC. Blink interviewed folks in Pineville who had been part of the project, and filmed pertinent locations including our church, which was burned to the ground. We met with two professors who provided research and members of Lefty’s family and friends. Our search and reunion are half of the series fifth segment, ‘Freedom Summer.” The other half follows Fatima Cortez-Todd and her search from the summer of 1964 in Louisiana. Hours of video were made and it will be a lesson in film editing to see what the final hour-long product will be.
‘Freedom Summer’ airs on February 20, 2018, however, each segment is about “human history, — not from the point of view of kings or politicians or generals — but of everyday people on the front lines of massive events they have no way to control. Their stories tell us something about what we are made of.” (Ann Curry)
SCOPE folks know about connections. Almost 53 years later, we are still telling our story in hopes that it will illuminate another time of trouble where problems were met and solved in a way that changed this country. I wonder where SCOPE will call me next?
SCHEDULE FOR THE SIX SEGMENTS OF “WE’LL MEET AGAIN”:
Children of WW2 – 01/23/18
Rescued from Mt. St. Helens – 01/30/18
Lost Children of Vietnam – 02/06/18
Heroes of 9/11 – 02/13/18
Freedom Summer – 02/20/18
Coming Out – 02/27/18
Here is the trailer, but except for the iconic picture we all know from the Civil Rights Movement, there is nothing from my project. http://www.pbs.org/meet-again/coming-soon/