America has two histories, according to Bill Kavanagh, the director and producer of a documentary focusing on segregation in Yonkers, New York titled, â€œBrick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story.â€
â€œWe have one mainstream history that talks a lot about how we believe in and value equality and democracy,â€ he said in an email to the Collegian, â€œbut also a peopleâ€™s history, which shows another reality ÂÂâ€“ that African Americans and other people of color throughout our nationâ€™s life have had to fight daily to achieve some measure of the ideals we espouse.â€
He realized this as he worked on the documentary, which will be shown by the Campus Activities office in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. today from noon to 1:30 p.m.
â€œWe thought it was a great educational film to show how segregation and fights for civil rights carry on now,â€ said Vani Narayana, the assistant director of Campus Activities and the assistant director of the Asian/Pacific American Cultural Center. â€œRecognizing itâ€™s an ongoing battle is honoring MLK Jr. I think he would have wanted to see work continue (to fight for civil rights).â€
The inspiration for Kavanaghâ€™s film came from his experience growing up in Boston in the 1970â€™s and witnessing the struggle of integrating public schools. The documentary shows how a ghetto was formed by public policies by featuring three different families in Yonkers who are â€œin the middle of a confrontation about the politics and law of racial discrimination in housing and schools that challenges and changes their hometown,â€ according to the documentaryâ€™s website.
The film follows the U.S. v. Yonkers litigation, which challenged discrimination found within neighborhoods and education.
â€œI think of myself as a journalist and activist with a camera,â€ Kavanagh said. â€œI love film as a medium, and I think moving pictures are the way our society gets together around the town square to describe events and discuss the issues of our day.â€
Although Kavanagh has been involved in creating several other films, including â€œEnemies of War,â€ a film about the murder of six Jesuit priests during the civil war in El Salvador in 1989, â€œBrick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story,â€ was his first opportunity to direct and produce a long-form documentary.
And it was an opportunity that ended up being â€œtransformativeâ€ for him in many ways, including being able to understand the nature of societal change.
â€œIt’s clear to me that change comes only when people are committed over time, sometimes generations, to making things work differently than they â€˜always have,â€™â€ he said. â€œ My admiration for the people in Yonkers who committed to changing the outlook of their community and their country on race and on the benefits of integrated communities is boundless.â€
In the United States today, a country with an African American president, he said, itâ€™s easy for younger people to â€œimagine that the civil rights movement is best seen through a black and white projection of the past.â€
â€œThis couldnâ€™t be further from the truth. The movement needs new champions.â€
Narayana said the documentary makes viewers start thinking about how they grew up and what kinds of different people they were or were not exposed to.
â€œ(The film) shows a specific example of people who created change in a situation, and itâ€™s inspiring to see that,â€ she said.
â€œIn the end, itâ€™s always ordinary people who make the most difference in this world,â€ Kavanagh said. â€œItâ€™s the people who do everyday things who make change possible, just by saying no to injustice in their own lives. They make huge movements possible.â€
Kavanagh encourages students to fight social inequality when they experience or witness it on campus, within their circle of friends, in their dorms, in their classes or throughout the community.
â€œWhen you run up against somethingâ€¦that doesnâ€™t feel just or right, you always have a choice to make: Do I say something, do something, or simply let it rideâ€¦? Make your own choice, and see how liberating it is to question things that once felt too big to change. Maybe it will change you a little, too.â€
Entertainment Editor Courtney Riley can be reached at email@example.com.