At the start of the new film, Legacy of Courage: Black Changemakers in Massachusetts Past, Present, Future, Boston-area teen and youth educator Vikiana Petit-Homme explains the African concept of Sankofa, “Looking back to go forward.” She says, “Just by starting to engage students about Black history — that is giving them such valuable information to look back on as they’re looking to go forward. I think that’s so powerful. I think that’s so revolutionary.”
The Massachusetts Bar Foundation has demonstrated its commitment to making Black history come alive for young people as a major sponsor of the Legacy of Courage film project, contributing $20,000 to its production. “As part of its DEI work, the MBF is intentional in supporting projects impacting racial and social justice,” notes MBF President Angela C. McConney. “Inspiring activism among young people of color and their allies has a tremendous ripple effect in advancing the major social justice issues of our day.”
Created over two years by the Justice George Lewis Ruffin Society and produced by Northern Light Productions, Legacy of Courage chronicles how African American activists in Massachusetts have used the legal system to pursue freedom and civil rights for more than 400 years. The 20-minute film tells the stories of landmark court cases challenging slavery and education-based segregation utilizing archival sources, animation sequences, and interviews with scholars and youth activists. The lessons these stories deliver through successes, failures, and persistent activism are intended to inform and inspire audiences in schools and communities in Massachusetts and beyond.
Legacy of Courage was created to extend the reach of the Long Road to Justice: The African American Experience in the Massachusetts Courts exhibition, which for many years traveled to courthouses statewide until it was revised and permanently installed in the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in 2018. The Foundation also supported that project.
According to Susan D. Goodman, Ed.M., Executive Director of the Legacy of Courage Project, “Both efforts came about through the vision, inspiration and leadership of Superior Court Judge Julian T. Houston and the Justice George Lewis Ruffin Society. We wanted to educate more young people beyond the exhibit, and a film would be the best way to bring this history into the classroom.”
Goodman adds, “The film came together due to the contributions of our planning team, an advisory council rich with historians, legal experts, community activists and educators, and also sponsors such as the Mass. Bar Foundation, whose consistent and loyal support for all the Long Road to Justice projects made a substantial impact.”
The Legacy of Courage film project has partnered with education consulting nonprofit Primary Source to develop discussion guides and to introduce the film to school administrators and teachers for use in classrooms in upper elementary, middle, and high school. “As an organization that supports educators in teaching accurately and inclusively about the United States, Primary Source considers African American history to be core to our mission,” says Primary Source Executive Director Jennifer Boyle Nigro. “We will build upon our 33 years of experience working with Massachusetts educators to provide a meaningful, integrated approach to utilizing Legacy of Courage in their classrooms. This film provides a dynamic tool for teachers to bring local African American history and stories of advocacy that will inspire their students."
Goodman says now is the right time for a film such as Legacy of Courage. “In an era when the teaching of Black history is controversial in many parts of the country, we are promoting it. When it is taught, the history is often presented negatively. In fact, there are great achievements throughout the centuries that must be taught and celebrated in our classrooms.” Ideally, she says, the film will inspire young people to realize that their voices, and their votes matter. “We hope the historic figures we present will inspire them to realize that they have a key role. They can make a difference.”
Screenings of the film by school systems and community groups are encouraged. It is free to view and download at https://legacyofcourage.org/film/.
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Article by: Michele Chausse, Above the Fold Communications: firstname.lastname@example.org