Sunday, August 15, 2010
The Long Walk Home
Did you ever watch the movie "The Long Walk Home," filmed here in Montgomery, Alabama in 1990. I was 8 years old when my dad took me to Cloverdale school for try outs and casting. My parents were shocked and pleasantly surprised when we received a call asking if I would be a "stand in" for Lexi Randall who played the character of Mary Katherine Thompson. Every day that summer, my mom, sister, and I would go to the set of the movie and I would get dressed in similar costumes to what she would be dressed in for her upcoming scene. While she practiced her lines I would "stand in" during rehearsal and play her part so that producers could test lighting and other technical responsibilities that goes with filming a movie. I remember wandering, alone, around the set one morning and feeling "caught" when a black lady, dressed as a maid, met me in the doorway of one of the rooms. I looked up at her, she held her hand out for me to shake, she asked, "what's your name?" I told her "Laura" and she said, "I'm Whoopie, it is nice to meet you." I ran back to Mama and was giddy with excitement but had to wait until she got off the telephone to tell her that I had just met a movie star! While I waited, I remember smelling my hand and noticing how my hand smelled like soap and cocoa butter lotion. In between takes I can also remember playing the game of "Operation" with Lexi and some of the other children on the set. I was paid $50 a day to be a part of this incredible movie production and, ultimately,once in a life time experience. My parents would have probably paid them to let me be a part of it! What a neat experience?
Today, my mother called me to tell me that the movie was showing on BET. I watched the whole movie start to finish. I have seen it before but today it was different watching. I am grown now with children of my own. I have 6 years experience working in the Montgomery Public Schools in neighborhoods of town now considered "bad parts of town" where I am the minority. The board of education and special education office is just down the street from the church where Dr. Martin Luther King preached about civil rights and equality. The big houses on Court Street and Oak Park all featured in the film are all real life places that I grew up around and until today took for granted. Today I watched this movie and I got choked up at certain moments and full out cried during other moments. I realized, though will never understand or feel, the awfulness of what blacks went through - and in some ways are going through today. I also realized that being from Montgomery and living here today is a huge privilege, in my opinion, because it is the birthplace of such a profound movement in American and World History. When I visit my in-laws in Selma, I don't drive over the Edmond Pettus bridge without remembering the individuals who marched and their cause and personal sacrifices.
As I watched "The Long Walk Home" I thought about how far the civil rights movement has come and how far it has to go, not just for black Americans but for anyone denied their civil rights. One of my close friends Adriana, a black woman, was visiting me, Harper, and Lily, one day last week and like during most of our visits, we got on the topic of things that annoy whites and blacks and how she and I play a role in our daily inter-racial interactions. I cherish her friendship on many levels. One, first and foremost, I love her for who she is and the friend connection we have. Harper also seems especially fond of her. She always climbs up in Adrianna's lap and while Harper play with Adriana's earrings, Adrianna plays with Harper's hair! But Harper really likes when "Adri-nana" shares her McDonald's french fries! Second, I cherish her friendship because she and I can be totally uncensored and REAL in discussing what is still dividing our two races - in both spoken and unspoken ways.
Dr. Lena Williams is the author of a book called "It's the Little Things" which I am currently reading. She writes about "community groups" of mixed races that meet in individuals' households to talk about "little things that annoy and divide the races." Adrianna and I kind of have a little community group of our own and I sometimes wonder if we should invite others to come along and join in discussions like the ones we have. Who would come? What could happen?
So I am thinking about civil rights today. The faces of those denied. The color of those faces, the faith of those faces, the sexual preferences of those faces, the sex or gender of those faces, the list goes on and on. The spectrum is so broad... forgive the pun.