OCtech to Host Social Justice Film Series This Spring

Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College and the Center for Creative Partnerships will host Community Cinema, a social justice film series, this spring.

This year’s film series is dedicated to John Hope Franklin, an American historian best known for his work “From Slavery to Freedom,” first published in 1947. In 1995, Franklin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Three films will be presented at 6 p.m. in Roquemore Auditorium, Building R, on the campus of OCtech, beginning with American Experience’s “Freedom Summer: Mississippi. 1964.” on Thursday, March 5. Additional films in the series are “The Burning Bed” starring Farrah Fawcett on Thursday, March 26, and “From Swastika to Jim Crow: Jewish Scholars in Black Colleges” on Thursday, April 23. Discussions – moderated by CCP President Ellen Zisholtz – will take place following the film screenings.

February is Black History Month, and this year marks the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. March is Women’s History Month, and this year is the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. April is Holocaust Remembrance Month, and this year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the liberation of concentration camps. The series centers on those topics and is free and open to the public.

In 1964, less than 7 percent of Mississippi’s African-Americans were registered to vote. For years, local civil rights workers had tried unsuccessfully to increase that number. Those who wished to vote had to face the local registrar, who would often publish their names in the paper and pass the word on to their employers and bankers. If loss of jobs and the threat of violence wasn’t enough to dissuade them, the complex and arcane testing policies were certain to keep them off the rolls.

In 1964, a new plan was hatched by Bob Moses, a local secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and David Dennis, field secretary for the Mississippi Congress of Racial Equality. For 10 weeks, white students from the North would join activists on the ground for a massive effort that would do what had been impossible so far: force the media and the country to take notice of the shocking violence and massive injustice taking place in Mississippi. “Freedom Summer: Mississippi. 1964.” follows that movement.

Dennis will lead the film discussion, joined by Dr. Millicent Brown, a historian and American Civil Liberties Union board member who will discuss modern-day voter suppression.

In “The Burning Bed,” Francine Hughes (Farrah Fawcett) suffers the abuse of her husband, Mickey (Paul Le Mat), for almost a decade because she cannot find any help. When a drunken Mickey rapes her and then passes out, Francine pours gasoline over him and lights it on fire. In the ensuing blaze, Mickey dies and the house burns down. During Francine’s trial, she testifies about her years of suffering, and her attorney, Aryon Greydanus (Richard Masur), tries to have her declared temporarily insane and acquitted.

Rose Leiman Goldemberg – who received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Dramatic Adaptation for “The Burning Bed” – will interact with the audience on issues of domestic violence through Skype, and state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter will discuss domestic violence in the region and her work with CASA Family Systems.

“From Swastika to Jim Crow: Jewish Scholars in Black Colleges” is a 2000 documentary that explores the similarities between Nazism in Germany (the Swastika) and racism in the American South (Jim Crow). In 1939, the Nazi government expelled Jewish scholars from German universities. Many of them found teaching positions in Southern Historically Black Colleges and Universities, where they sympathized with the plight of their African-American colleagues and students.

John Whittington Franklin, whose father John Hope Franklin is featured in the film, will discuss the partnership between the black and Jewish communities during the civil rights struggle and the failure of immigration to save lives from genocide. The discussion will continue with a representative from ACLU leading a dialogue about immigration issues today.

The film series is funded in part by OCtech, South Carolina Humanities and AARP South Carolina.