Film focuses on High Point’s Civil Rights MovementBy Chanel Davis. Peacemaker Contributor / January 27, 2017
HIGH POINT – Residents and High Point University students got a glimpse of High Point during of its most volatile periods.
The documentary, “The March on an All-American City,” was directed by High Point resident Phyllis Bridges. She also owns Yalik’s Modern Art. The film viewing took place on Saturday evening (Jan. 21) at the Extraordinaire Cinema Theater at High Point University’s R.G. Wanek Building.
The film focuses on the Civil Rights Movement in High Point and includes key moments like the desegregation of Blair Park Golf Course, the boycott of Horton’s Furniture Store, the integration of High Point City Schools, the Feb. 11, 1960 Woolworth Sit-in and the rise of CORE (Congress on Racial Equality) and NAACP organizations in the city.
“This is a chronological timeline of the Civil Rights Movement in High Point. It just tells how the All-American City of High Point survived the Civil Rights Movement without a whole lot of violence but then there was enough going that we had key civil rights leaders come in to High Point,” Bridges said.
The film is complete with interviews and audio clips from key players and eyewitnesses including Dr. Peter E. Mason Sr., Mary Lou Blakeney, Albert Campbell, Brenda Fountain, Arlene Wilkes and Rev. B. Elton Cox, one of the original Freedom Riders.
Adrienne Calhoun and her husband, Wendell, brought their 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter to see the documentary, so they could learn more about the city’s history.
“Although my kids are young, I want them to know who they are and where they live. Our world is multicultural but exposure is still the key,” Adrienne Calhoun said.
The Calhouns said they will have a discussion with their son about the film.
“We will dissect the film and have further conversations about what he saw and what it means,” she said.
Just like Calhoun felt it was important to know about High Point’s history, Bridges felt that it was just as important to make sure the story was told.
“When you mention Greensboro and that sit-in, High Point should be followed behind it. Even Rev. Cox was working with some of the community leaders in Greensboro. There was a bond and they worked together so that story should be told,” she said. “When it comes to High Point’s Black history, nothing is said. How can an International Furniture city, which was back then the furniture capital of the world, be so segregated? I think we really need to look at how much power we had then when we were together. We had political strength and when we needed things done in the Black community they got done. Now we don’t have that togetherness like we used to so when we need something done now it takes forever.”
Bridges said she found the process of completing the documentary easy. She said that she didn’t have any issues getting any of her interviewees to talk about their families or what they remembered during that era.
“It’s like they’re ready to tell these stories. People are always wanting to tell their story or that they know someone that I should meet, both Black and White people,” she said, calling herself a traveling exhibit. “I had a lady tell me that she has a pair of her school shoes that she used in marches and she’s held on to them because of the meaning of those shoes. People want to tell their story.”
The film came to High Point University (HPU) through Danasia Eubanks, a junior criminal justice major, who’d heard about the film and wanted other students to experience it.
“As faculty, when students get excited about stuff it is our job to encourage them and help them along the way,” said Rev. Joseph D. Blosser, Robert G. Culp Jr. Director of Service Learning for HPU. “As director of service learning here, my work is really to try and encourage students to engaged the community broadly and to better understand the community. So, if there is a student that takes that to heart and tries to do that, it’s gratifying. It is exciting to see students take leadership in their education and wanting to educate their peers on stuff they’re passionate about.”
A question and answer session was held after the screening so students could hear more from those involved in the documentary. Panelists included Bridges, Dr. Peter E. Mason, and Rev. Angela Robinson from The Congressional United Church of Christ on Gordon Road. The panel was moderated by Michael Robinson, a freshman success coach at HPU.
For Mason, watching and discussing the events of that time was not pleasant, even though he was involved by providing protection for the women sit-in participants.
“I don’t enjoy reminiscing about this very negative part of my life. It had an undoubtable effect on my psyche. I think today we are headed back to that same direction with the political atmosphere of our country,” he said.
When asked if he felt marches and sit-ins were still effective, Mason said he believes that the times of today call for a more aggressive style of protest.
“Sit-ins and nonviolence worked but it was a process that took years. People tend to respond to a more aggressive form. When I say aggressive I don’t mean violent but more in the form of organizations like Black Lives Matter,” he explained. “We protested silently and peacefully. They are willing to confront whatever the issue is face to face. People tend to hear you better if that’s the type of protest you’re involved in.”
Blosser said that he hopes the film gives students insight.
“Dr. King’s legacy has become a feel-good, we all come together type of event. But we forget about the depth of the struggle, the sacrifice and what was at stake. Tonight, we got a chance to see what was at stake here in High Point.”
For more information on the film or bookings visit www.themarchon.com.