Sunflower County Film Academy in the Press

 

Researchers give Delta students, teachers resources to rediscover and teach Fannie Lou Hamer

Mississippi Today - June 28, 2018 

See the Article

Screening party set for student filmmakers of Fannie Lou Hamer project

Clarion Ledger - July 13, 2018

SEE THE ARTICLE

Prof leads mission to teach civil rights history in Mississippi

FSUNews, FSView - July 16, 2018

See the Article

Mississippi Delta students contribute to film that debuts at 2019 Sundance Film Festival

Mississippi Today - January 23, 2019

See the Article

Sundance Film Festival to Feature Work of Communication Alumni and Professor

News & Events at FSU College of Communication & Information - January 25, 2019

See the Article

Two FSU alumni team up on film shown at Sundance Film Festival

Florida State University News - January 30, 2019

See the Article

FSU alumni team up on film for Sundance Festival

Statesman Journal - February 9, 2019

See the Article

Press Releases

Fannie Lou Hamer Student Workshop Awarded $4k in Grants

JACKSON, MISS. – (July 19, 2019) – A filmmaker’s workshop for high school students in the Delta, that stems from the multimodal project, Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, has received two additional grants for its 2020 summer course. The program received a $15,000 grant from the Phil Hardin Foundation earlier this year. And in June, the Mississippi Humanities Council awarded $3,000 to the Sunflower County Film Academy and Hope Enterprise Corporation of Jackson, contributed $1,000 to the effort.

“Mrs. Hamer’s unparalleled resilience, along with her ability to organize her fellow citizens in the pursuit of social justice, is a model that HOPE seeks to emulate in our efforts to equip Delta residents with the tools needed to achieve their potential,” said HOPE CEO Bill Bynum.

The Sunflower County Film Academy is a free workshop open to 15 students with an interest in digital arts and broadcast media. Originally named, the Young Filmmaker’s Workshop, the first class was held at Gentry High School in Indianola, in June/July 2018 and was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In conjunction with the mission of the Mississippi Humanities Council, the workshop will also empower a new generation of young people to engage in reflective conversation about modern day injustices and racial healing inspired by activists of the past.

Students of the Find Your Voice filmmakers' academy enjoy meeting Charles McLaurin, who stopped by the workshop to share some of his experiences with Fannie Lou Hamer and the Civil Rights movement.

Students of the Find Your Voice filmmakers' academy enjoy meeting Charles McLaurin, who stopped by the workshop to share some of his experiences with Fannie Lou Hamer and the Civil Rights movement.

Students of the Find Your Voice filmmakers' academy enjoy meeting Charles McLaurin, who stopped by the workshop to share some of his experiences with Fannie Lou Hamer and the Civil Rights movement.

Students of the Find Your Voice filmmakers' academy enjoy meeting Charles McLaurin, who stopped by the workshop to share some of his experiences with Fannie Lou Hamer and the Civil Rights movement.

 “The Mississippi Humanities Council is committed to helping communities tell their own stories. We are so excited to help support this workshop that will teach young people in Sunflower County how to document the incredible history of their community,” said Dr. Stuart Rockoff, executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council.

“I feel comfortable and confident in saying Ruleville native Fannie Lou Hamer would have been astounded by this program,” said one of the workshop instructors, Robert Fitzpatrick. “This program is a current representation of what the Freedom Schools, SNCC, the NAACP and all other organizations of this nature would want to see happen.”

Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, which honors the late civil rights icon with a new and original documentary and several educational programs, highlight Hamer’s efforts to ‘build a better Mississippi’, not only by advocating equal voting rights for all and better educational opportunities, but also by her humanitarian efforts of providing housing, clothing and food for the poor in the Mississippi Delta. The MHC awarded a $7,500 grant to the film and educational curriculum in 2017. Both are scheduled for release this year.  

During the intensive five-week program, students will be taught the aesthetics of digital studies, including the use of professional-grade production equipment. Working in teams, students will plan and produce short films and schedule, conduct and film their own interviews. Two films the students worked on premiered at two film festivals in 2019, Sundance in Park City, Utah and Crossroads in Madison, Miss. The course also involves learning primary source research, which teaches students how to create their own oral histories while examining civil rights history in their own communities.  

Fitzpatrick, a filmmaker from Ruleville, who works to foster the knowledge of local activists like Hamer in his Delta community, said he’s proud of the social impact the workshop made on its freshman class.   

“At the beginning of the workshop, when asked what they knew about Fannie Lou Hamer, one student responded with, ‘I don’t even know who that is,’” Fitzpatrick said. “But by the end of the workshop, they became so appreciative for not only what she did, but what others, as well as groups we discussed such as C.O.R.E. and The Black Panther Party accomplished. If it weren’t for programs and institutions doing a work similar or the same as what we’ve been doing through the Mississippi Humanities Council and others helping us in this fight, we’d lose the rest of our history from 1865 to now. So, the young filmmaker’s workshop isn’t just about filmmaking.”

The workshop has two other instructors, filmmakers Dr. Pablo Correa and Joy Davenport. The director and editor of the upcoming documentary, Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, Davenport produced the 2010 film, M.F.D.P about Hamer.  Correa, a visiting professor at Willamette University in Oregon, is also the webmaster for Fannie Lou Hamer’s America and like Fitzpatrick, worked as a videographer on the film.

“My biggest joy was hearing three students, who at the beginning of the workshop didn’t know what they wanted to do after graduation, come to me and say they were going to college for digital media and cinematography,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s moments like those that we strive for. It’s far beyond just giving the students a safe place in the summer. It’s far beyond making sure those students get lunch or a meal every day. And it’s far beyond making sure the youth of today stay out of trouble ensuring we have adults for tomorrow. But it’s about maintaining that momentum to continuously provide those things while achieving the goal of creating a pathway for our children to continue after we leave.”

About the Mississippi Humanities Council (MHC):

Founded amidst the turmoil of federally imposed integration, the MHC plays an important role in helping to bring about social change in Mississippi, organizing and supporting interracial meetings and funding grants to communities to discuss desegregation and other important issues. Perhaps more important than funding is the MHC’s ability to offer a state-level legitimacy for such discussions and to serve as an impartial broker among differing points of view. 

The Mississippi Humanities Council is a private nonprofit corporation funded by Congress through the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide public programs in traditional liberal arts disciplines to serve nonprofit groups in Mississippi. The humanities are the study of history, literature, religion, languages, philosophy, and culture. The Mississippi Humanities Council creates opportunities for Mississippians to learn about themselves and the larger world and enriches communities through civil conversations about our history and culture.

About Hope Enterprise Corporation:

HOPE is a family of development organizations dedicated to strengthening communities, building assets and improving lives in the Delta and other economically distressed parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.  Comprised of a regional credit union (Hope Credit Union), loan fund (Hope Enterprise Corporation) and policy center (Hope Policy Institute), HOPE has provided financial services, leveraged private and public resources, and shaped policies that have benefited more than 1 million residents in one of the nation’s most persistently poor regions. Their mission is to strengthen communities, build assets and improve lives in economically distressed areas of the mid-south by providing access to high-quality financial products and related services.

Their vision is to be a community development financial institution that provides a substantial number of low-wealth people and communities with the financial tools and resources needed to achieve a better quality of life; that influences policies and resources that impact our constituents and our interests, and that is financially self-sufficient.

missippi-humanities-logo.pnghope-25-logo.png

Student film from Find Your Voice Workshop Premieres at Crossroads Film Festival

(April 13, 2019) – MADISON, MS. – A film produced by the students of the Find Your Voice Young Filmmakers’ Workshop premiered at the 20th Annual Crossroads Film Festival in Madison on Saturday, April 13. The festival, one of longest running in Mississippi, was held from April 11 to April 14 and featured 102 films from across the nation. The student’s short film titled, Find Your Voice, highlighting civil rights activism in the Mississippi Delta was shown at the Malco Grandview Cinema, and was followed by a Q&A session between the young filmmakers and the audience.

“Crossroads Film Festival is celebrating 20 years of bringing Mississippi-made films to the big screen,” says Philip Scarborough, a founding member of Crossroads Film Society and current Society Board President.  “This year we’ve taken special care to select films made in Mississippi or by Mississippi filmmakers, and films by youth, LGBTQ, female, and filmmakers of color.”

The Young Filmmakers’ Workshop is part of the Find Your Voice K-12 Curriculum for the upcoming documentary, Fannie Lou Hamer’s America. The intensive five-week workshop was held in the summer of 2018 and allowed 17 high school students from the Mississippi Delta to learn the aesthetics of digital studies and filmmaking, including the use of professional-grade equipment, primary source research and creating their own oral histories while examining the life and legacy of civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer. A native of Ruleville in Sunflower County, Hamer did most of her humanitarian work in the Delta and constantly sought better educational opportunities for students. The Young Filmmakers’ Workshop, now an annual program known as the Sunflower County Film Academy, is a tribute to her pedagogical mission.

The instructors for the workshop were three members of the Fannie Lou Hamer’s America film team, director and editor, Joy Davenport and videographers Dr. Pablo Correa and Robert Fitzpatrick Jr. The workshop was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

crossroad-film-festival-presentation
From Left to Right: Keziah Allen, Keyshawn Brison, Keyshaun Meeks, Pablo Correa, and R.J. Fitzpatrick pose for a picture during the Crossroads Film Festival in Madison, Mississippi on Saturday, April 13 2019.

 

Correa and Fitzpatrick attended the Crossroads Film Festival with three students from the workshop: Keziah Allen, Keyshawn Brison and Keyshaun Meeks.

“It was amazing,” Fitzpatrick said of the experience. “Not only seeing their work but seeing their faces as they watched. The glow in their eyes and smiles on their faces were so genuine. They were so happy and into all of the films. And there were tons of people that wanted to talk to them.” 

crossroads-film-festival-screening
Students of the Find Your Voice filmmakers' academy smile excitedly as they see their project on the big screen during the Crossroads Film Festival in Madison, Mississippi on Saturday, April 13, 2019.

  

In true Hollywood fashion, Allen, Brison and Meeks were interviewed and photographed on the red carpet prior to the screening of their film.

“It felt awesome!” Meeks said. “It felt empowering in a way and I was honored to be a part of something that really has changed my life and my outlook of the world. Literally, I had goosebumps running all over my body. And when our film was coming to an end, I wanted to cry because it was that much of an achievement. I really want to do it all over again.” 

Organizers said the Crossroads Film Society prides itself on facilitating and promoting a broad spectrum of film-related events for the community while promoting dialogue and educational opportunities for filmmakers and audiences. The question and answer session that followed the screening of Find Your Voice allowed Brison, Allen and Meeks to talk about their workshop experiences.

crossroads-film-festival-question-session
Find Your Voice students Keziah Allen, Keyshawn Brison, and Keyshaun Meeks answer audience questions after the screening of their film project during the Crossroads Film Festival in Madison, Mississippi, on April 13, 2019.

 

“I felt confident, but still a little nervous,” Meeks said. “I couldn’t stop smiling because I was thinking how cool it was to be in front of an audience presenting our work to actual people. I wanted to say so much more with the Q&A part, but I was nervous.”

“The crowd understood that this was their first time in this situation, so they clapped and were supportive of anything they said,” Correa said. “Keyshaun Meeks mentioned wanting to pursue digital media as a major and the crowd clapped. Keyshawn Brison also mentioned wanting to use his skills more, which drew a good response from the crowd.”

“One lady didn’t have a question but wanted to tell us how happy she was this was happening and how fortunate the kids were to have the opportunity,” Fitzpatrick said. “During the playing of the film, everyone stayed quiet, but me being curious, I turned around a few times and everyone seemed into it. When Seymour Mitchell, an older gentleman, [in the film] was speaking about his whistling, that seemed to get the most jaw-dropping responses.”

As instructors, Correa and Fitzpatrick were asked by the audience to explain the logistics of the workshop and if it would continue.

“RJ and Pablo both answered that question, ‘Yes!’”, Meeks said. “The experience can change lives.”

The 17 students in the workshop made their first film, Out Of Many, after one week in class. Meeks, Allen and Brison were also among the eight students who worked as paid and credited videographers on the film, I Snuck Off The Slave Ship, during the workshop. The film was edited by the third workshop instructor, Joy Davenport, and was an official selection at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

“I feel the Young Filmmakers’ Workshop is most definitely important, now more than ever,” Fitzpatrick said. “I loved the workshop and the purpose of it. To get the kids involved with the media of today prepares them for the tomorrow of technology. Society will only advance and through workshops similar to this one, it helps them. Not to mention that it teaches, not just history, but the history of our people…our people as in our neighbors. We spoke with children from the area who didn’t even know who Fannie Lou Hamer was.”

“The workshop has literally turned my whole life around,” Meeks said. “Here’s how, I’m a graduating senior and I was struggling to find out what I wanted to do after high school. I’m going to Delta State to major in Digital and Media Arts. This program literally has drove me to choose that major and I know that this is going to be something that I will love and enjoy doing!”

# # #

About The Young Filmmakers’ Workshop Instructors: Robert Fitzpatrick Jr is a videographer and photographer from Ruleville, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from Delta State University. He specializes in Digital Media Art and works with communities in the Delta by fostering the knowledge of and impact of local activists such as Fannie Lou Hamer.

Pablo Correa received his doctorate in Communication at Florida State University and has a Master’s in Communication with an emphasis on Digital Media. A civil rights historian, he specializes in documentary film, graphics and short animation. His research focuses on the interests of minorities, especially Blacks and Hispanics, in America. His work highlights racial relations, stories of tension, as well as stories of perseverance and success. Correa taught Media Techniques and Single Cam Video Production at Florida State University. He is also the webmaster for Fannie Lou Hamer’s America.

Joy Elaine Davenport, a videographer and video editor from Tallahassee, also taught Media Techniques and Single Cam Video Production at Florida State University. Davenport has produced films on topics as varied as the civil rights struggle in Mississippi, migratory shorebirds of Florida, to the Cold war anxieties of Gilligan’s Island. A civil rights historian, her historical film, M.F.D.P., detailing Fannie Lou Hamer’s formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, was an official selection at the Bridge Crossing Jubilee Festival in Selma, Alabama. Davenport has also produced environmental pieces for PBS and National Geographic.

Fannie Lou Hamer’s America is a multimodal project, based on the civil rights activist’s life, that includes a new and original documentary, an educational curriculum, an interactive website and clearinghouse for Hamer-related materials and a virtual tour. The project’s mission is to create a platform for Hamer’s voice in our modern time while addressing and promoting conversations about racial equity. The documentary is slated for completion and release in 2019. Funding was provided by: The Mississippi Humanities Council, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Women’s Foundation of Mississippi, Retzer Resources (McDonald’s) and the Ella Baker Center For Human Rights.  For more information log onto www.fannielouhamerdocumentary.com, Facebook: Fannie Lou Hamer’s America and Twitter: @flhamerica.

# # #

Fannie Lou Hamer's America Film Students' Work Featured at Sundance Film Festival

(Jan. 24, 2019) PARK CITY, UT – Eight Mississippi Delta high school students who participated in a filmmaking workshop conducted by the production team of a new and original documentary, Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, will have their work on another film featured at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

The film, I Snuck Off the Slave Ship, created by Lonnie Holley, Cyrus Moussavi, Brittany Nugent and Matt Arnett, was originally taken from a song of the same name on Holley’s 2018 album, MITH. In the film, “temporal talismans” guide Holley through the Black American experience. “But his freedom quest always seems to get trapped in the same point of discontinuum; the 4th of July, birthdate of the self-replicating slave ship, ‘America’,” says the film’s synopsis.

The most influential and celebrated film festival in the world, Sundance was founded by iconic actor, director and producer Robert Redford in 1978. Named after his character in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Redford sought to attract more filmmakers to his wife’s native Utah, while at the same time actively advancing and celebrating the work of independent storytellers in film and theatre. Held for 10-days every winter, the Sundance Film Festival brings more than 40,000 visitors and celebrities to Park City, Utah and has launched hundreds of films that have gained critical recognition and acclaim, reaching new audiences worldwide.

A self-taught acclaimed artist and musician, this was Holley’s directorial debut. He said his short film is “built from the scraps of his life and hard sci-fi alterna-realities” and is a “testament to imagination as resistance.” The film was shot primarily around Holley’s home in Atlanta, Ga, with additional scenes being filmed in the Mississippi Delta by students from the Young Filmmakers’ Workshop, a component of the multimodal project, Fannie Lou Hamer’s America and its accompanying K-12 curriculum, Find Your Voice. The programs were financed by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

scfa-4th-july
Omar Washington, student in the Find Your Voice Filmmakers' Workshop and cousin to Fannie Lou Hamer, films scenes on the 4th of July in Itta Bena, Mississippi. Phot Credit: Joe Davenport

 

Keyshawn Brison, Marquisse Kirkham, Keyshaun Meeks, Keziah Allen, Omar Washington, Trayvion Dozier, Anderson Johnson and Selena Davila were among the 17 students chosen for the first summer workshop held in Indianola in 2018. Instructors for the three teams of students were Joseph Davenport, director and editor of Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, the film’s webspinner and videographer, Dr. Pablo Correa, and videographer and Delta native RJ Fitzpatrick.

“Conducting the first workshop was one of the most exciting, scary, and satisfying things I've ever done,” said Davenport. “It felt a lot like jumping out of an airplane. It took a lot of time and work and preparation to get to that point, and even as I was driving to Indianola for the first day of the workshop, I had no idea if I was ready for what was about to happen. But once we got started, and we got to know the students (and vice versa), it was exhilarating from start to finish.”

An established filmmaker, Davenport said he was already scheduled to work with Holley in Atlanta on the film, but saw this as an opportunity for the students.

“I still wanted to be involved, so I worked out a plan with Cyrus Moussavi, the film's co-director. We would hire my students for a day, on July 4th, while the main production team shot a party in Atlanta. So we ended up being the second unit [film crew]. The goal that I set for the students was simple: capture moments of feeling. They really delivered! I edited the film, and their footage ended up providing a crucial bridge, connecting a fantastical story with moments of earnest feeling.”

The eight students were paid for their work on Holley’s film and will be listed in the end credits, as well as the workshop as a whole.

Selena Davila, a Gentry High School senior at the time, was the only female student to participate in Holley’s film project.

“As a member of the workshop I was nervous going in,” she said. “But my instructors eased me into the wonderful process of film making. I got to interview many people as well as develop a passion that I never knew I could have for it. I now use my voice more often in college and through my writing. I am honored to have been a part of the workshop and I hope more [students] will step out and try it as well.”

Davenport and his team are currently seeking funds and sponsors for the 2019 Young Filmmakers’ Workshop - Sunflower County Film Academy. He will be attending the festival which begins on Thursday, Jan. 24.

“Lonnie Holley is a singular, prophetic artist, and it was a complete honor to be a part of realizing his vision, Davenport remarked. “I'm beyond ecstatic that this film will be premiering at Sundance. It'll be my first time - of many, I hope - but even more importantly, every student who participated can say with honesty that their first paying gig – of many, I hope - premiered at Sundance.”

Currently in production, Fannie Lou Hamer’s America allows the Mississippi sharecropper-turned-civil rights activist to tell her own story in her own words by means of rare archival and video footage. A rough cut of the documentary is slated for completion in March 2019. Funding was also provided through grants from The Ella Baker Center For Human Rights, the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi, Freedom Singer Bill Perlman, broadcast journalist Tavis Smiley, Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA), McDonald’s (Retzer Resources of Greenville) and the Phil Hardin Foundation.

# # #

Screening Party Set For Student Filmmakers of Fannie Lou Hamer Project

(July 12, 2018) – The production team of the upcoming documentary, Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, will host a one-time screening of projects created by the students of their summer Young Filmmakers’ Workshop.

The screening for the students, their family and friends will be held Saturday, July 14, at the B.B. King Interpretive Center and Museum in Indianola. Refreshments will be served at 1 p.m. and the screening will follow at 2 p.m. until 4 p.m.

Fannie Lou Hamer’s America is a multimodal project that includes a documentary detailing the Mississippi sharecropper-turned-civil rights activist’s life, and an educational curriculum, Find Your Voice.

The Young Filmmakers’ Workshop, just one element of the curriculum, was held at Gentry High School in Indianola, and began on June 11 and officially ended on July 9 with students receiving a certificate of completion and a stipend for $500 provided by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  Other sponsors of the workshops were the Mississippi Humanities Council, McDonald’s (Retzer Resources of Greenville), Walmart Supercenter in Indianola and McDonald’s in Indianola.

Instructors for the workshop were professional filmmaker’s Pablo Correa and Joy Davenport. Davenport is the director and editor of the upcoming documentary, Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, and Correa is the videographer and webspinner for the project’s website. Both have taught filmmaking courses at Florida State University.

“The students were shy at first. But after warming up a bit, they learned how to work together and came up with amazing stories,” said Correa.

"Working with the students has been incredibly exciting. Their enthusiasm and ingenuity remind me of my first time learning to use a camera, and the world of possibilities that opened up for me. I have high hopes that one day these kids will be putting me out of a job," Davenport said.

High school students who attended the workshop are: Keziah Allen, Keyshawn Brison, Jaylen Brown, Selena Davila, Travion Dozier, Zoe Feltson, Anderson Johnson, Markquisse Kirkham, Carledia Jones, Makayla Lenoir, Keyshawn Meeks, Kaitlyn Thomas, Omar Washington, Joseph White, Quanzarius Willard and Kelvin Williams. Most of the students attend Gentry High School in Indianola, one student attends Ruleville Central High - in Fannie Lou Hamer’s hometown  - and others hail from Shaw and Cleveland.

The purpose of the free workshop was to provide students with unique skills such as filmmaking, primary source research, oral histories, and digital studies, to help them stand out as exemplary candidates for colleges and careers. This project also hopes to encourage more minorities in the field of digital media production.

“The students took an intense college-level video production course and learned skills that can land them jobs and opportunities in professional media careers, such as how to setup and conduct interviews, pre-production story boarding, 3-point lighting, audio, how to frame shots and shoot b-roll, filming and editing,” Correa said. “We are extremely proud of this group of talented students and would like to invite the community out to share in their accomplishment by viewing their final video project.”

Carledia Jones, a rising senior at Gentry High School, said the workshop provided valuable hands-on experience with documentary production that will help her after graduation.

“I never knew how much work goes into video editing,” said Jones, who plans to pursue a communications degree in college. “I would like to produce YouTube videos one day, and this workshop made me realize I would probably need to partner with an editor when I do. We also learned so much about everything that goes into filmmaking and being able to use our own creativity and ideas for film projects.”

Within the first week, the students had completed their first film project together, Out of Many.

Correa and Davenport plan to teach the course to a new a group of students on an annual basis since Sunflower County schools do not have an audio-visual program. There is already a waiting list for 2019.

Charles Modley, president of the Sunflower County NAACP,  Gentry High School Principal Willie Bolden, Jacqueline Williams of Gentry High School, educator Willena White and Timla Washington of Congressman Bennie Thompson’s office all assisted in recruiting students for the workshop, in conjunction with the Sunflower County Consolidated School District.

A two-day educator’s workshop was also held in June where seven teachers from the Mississippi Delta helped the Fannie Lou Hamer’s America Curriculum Team, Drs. Maegan Parker Brooks and Davis Houck, develop the K-12 lessons plans for students based on the upcoming film. An interactive website for students and teachers and a virtual tour to promote tourism in the state are also part of the Find Your Voice Curriculum.

Sunflower County was targeted for the curricular pilot programs because of Fannie Lou Hamer’s love, commitment and dedication to helping citizens of the historically impoverished community.

The documentary is slated for completion in March 2019. For more information log onto http://findyourvoice.willamette.edu/, Facebook: Fannie Lou Hamer’s America and Twitter: @flhamerica.

# # #

Crew of Fannie Lou Hamer’s America Will Host Two Free Workshops in the Mississippi Delta this Summer for Teachers and Students

(May 8, 2018) – Through a generous grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the film and curriculum crew of a new documentary, Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, will host two free workshops in the Mississippi Delta this summer for teachers and students.

The first, an Educator’s Workshop for teachers in Hamer’s native Sunflower County, will be held on June 26 and 27, and will be conducted by Fannie Lou Hamer historians and scholars, Drs. Maegan Parker Brooks and Davis Houck. Brooks, an Assistant Professor in the Civic Communication and Media Department at Willamette University in Oregon, has written two books about Hamer, including one with Houck, Fannie Lou Hamer Professor of Rhetorical Studies at Florida State University. They are the developers of the Fannie Lou Hamer-inspired curriculum, entitled, Find Your Voice. The curriculum will be a central feature of a new website for students, educators, artists, and activists. Houck and Brooks are also the lead researchers and consultants on the film.  

Brooks and Houck partnered with the Sunflower County Consolidated School District (SCCSD), in particular, because Hamer lived and was politically active in Ruleville, and also because of the SCCSD’s mission to become a model district that attracts and retains high quality teachers and prepares students for college, careers, and the community.

Sunflower County teachers, representing a variety of grade levels and across several schools, volunteered to assist Brooks and Houck in developing K-12 lesson plans featuring the life and activism of Fannie Lou Hamer.

"We are so thankful to be collaborating with SCCSD on the Find Your Voice curriculum project! Teachers across the district share our belief that Fannie Lou Hamer's inspirational life story and her wide-ranging activism hold the potential to inspire today's students,” Brooks said. “Unfortunately, many teachers who would like to teach more about inspiring local figures like Mrs. Hamer, lack the resources to do so in compelling ways. This is where the extensive research we conducted for the documentary comes into play! We are looking forward to sharing archival and multimedia resources with SCCSD teachers and we are also looking forward to learning from SCCSD teachers about how to best reach and inspire a new generation of students."

The Young Filmmaker’s Workshop is open to 15 high school students from Sunflower County and will provide them with unique skills such as filmmaking, primary source research, oral histories, and digital studies, to help them stand out as exemplary candidates for colleges and careers. This project also hopes to encourage more minorities in digital media production fields. The workshop will be held Monday through Thursday, June 11 through July 9. The instructors are professional filmmakers Pablo Correa and Joseph Davenport. Davenport is the director and editor of Fannie Lou Hamer’s America.

"I got into making documentaries because I wanted to tell stories. But along the way, I also found a satisfying career,” Davenport said. “I would love to provide a similar opportunity for young people getting started with their professional journeys.”

 

Correa, who is a videographer for the film and webspinner for the project’s website, is a doctoral student in the School of Communication at Florida State University where he teaches media production and documentary courses. He has a Master’s in Communications with an emphasis on digital media, and has experience in producing and editing documentaries, educational media, advertisements, graphics and short animations.

“I am excited to introduce students to new media technology and filmmaking as a possible career path or course of study,” Correa said. “The workshop will provide them with a hands-on opportunity to learn industry equipment and editing techniques, as well as engage students in studying the life and legacy of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.”

Correa and Davenport will be assisted by Patrick Weems of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner. Correa and Weems conducted a similar workshop for students in Tallahatchie County in 2017.

“The Emmett Till Interpretive Center is honored and excited to partner with the Fannie Lou Hamer documentary project. We need to continue to tell stories to help process past pains and imagine new ways for moving forward, Weems said.”

Born on October 6, 1917, Mississippi-sharecropper-turned-civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer was the voice of voting rights during the 1960s to mid-1970s. Known for her powerful speeches and impassioned pleas for equal rights, Hamer delivered an emotional plea that was nationally televised at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Following her appearance, Hamer became one of the most sought-after speakers of her time.  Hamer died in 1977 at the age of 59 following a vicious jailhouse beating years earlier.

Currently in production, Fannie Lou Hamer’s America, will allow Hamer to tell her own story using audio and video footage recorded throughout her political and activist career. The film, slated for completion in the Spring of 2019 was also funded through grants from the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi and McDonald’s (Retzer Resources of Greenville).

http://findyourvoice.willamette.edu/, Facebook: Fannie Lou Hamer’s America and Twitter: @flhamerica

# # #