Before Charlie Sifford and Tiger Woods, there was Solomon “Gyp” Hughes, a Black caddy master and professional golfer from Gadsden (Etowah County), Alabama. Hughes challenged the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Tour when he attempted to play in the all-white 1948 St. Paul Minnesota Open. Hughes, a gifted golfer, and insightful instructor gave golf lessons to boxers Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson. This is the untold story of Hughes’ life, and the efforts of two devoted white golfers as they drive to make Gyp’s legacy wider known. They believe he should be a member of the Etowah County and Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. This project is in the research and development phase.
“The Proving Grounds?” In the late 1960s, two young Black men from Alabama’s Hill Country were drawn the Vietnam war. One, J.D., a civil rights foot soldier, and the son of a Black Baptist minister from a steel town, trained in chemicals, combat, and the culinary arts before he eventually became a first cook at Blackhorse Base Camp in southern Vietnam. The other, Hollis, from a small family farm, some 30 minutes away, became a Marine and engaged in some of the fiercest fighting of the war near Quảng Trị in central Vietnam. This experimental project will examine the unique experience, memories, and epistemology of these soldiers, born to working-class Black families in northern Alabama. This project is in the research and development phase.
THE VISIT. This theatrical documentary provides a glimpse of Booker T. Washington’s historic 1910 visit to Tuscaloosa’s First African Baptist Church. It was the city’s largest gathering of black and white citizens at that time. The Church went to become a central meeting location during the Civil Rights Movement. The performance is adapted from reports in The Tuscaloosa Times-Gazette and the research of Hilary Green at the University of Alabama.
SAVING GRACE is a documentary by Malcolm Cammeron. The film is a glimpse into the life of Chari Bostick and her efforts to promote and preserve African American history in Gadsden, Alabama. Bostick started the Grace Heritage Foundation and has devoted her time to reclaiming an historic black cemetery in the southern Appalachian city. The documentary project was supported by the University of Virginia’s Religion, Race & Democracy Lab.
FINDING THE CORNERSTONE – THE WALLACE A. RAYFIELD STORY. A disabled white preacher, who worked as an insurance agent and piano tuner, stumbles upon the works of a forgotten African American architect. His discovery takes him on an enlightening mission to uncover and preserve the architect’s legacy. Is his two-decade pursuit divinely inspired? Will he eventually donate the artifacts?
SWAYIN. Rev. Cedric Williams (and the Williams Brothers) of Cedar Bluff, Alabama honors his late grandmother, Lola Belle Bynum of Lebanon, Alabama. Swayin is one of several songs featured on their upcoming album. The emotional tribute is filmed at the quaint Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church and other picturesque locations around DeKalb County.
THE ELDORADO PROJECT is a collaborative interdisciplinary four-camera dance-theatre production, choreographed by Rita Snyder. The 2015 production includes images from the deserts of New Mexico, Utah and Nevada as well as photos from swamp areas in Alabama and Florida and the rainforests of Oregon and Washington State as visual background for the travels of The Knight. The choreography depicts The Knight and his encounters with The Shade as he travels across the country in his futile search for Eldorado.
APRIL’S HERO is the story of Robert Reed, the ultimate first responder after the April 27th, 2011 tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The tornado created a six-mile path of destruction and left 52 dead, but Reed pulled twelve of his neighbors from the rubble, throwing refrigerators and hot water heaters off of them. Reed moved into Crescent Ridge Mobile Home Estates in Tuscaloosa County in 2009. Residents were wary of him because of his background, but like many other times in his life, Reed won them over with his work ethic.
NOT MY SON. Not My Son follows Birmingham’s Carolyn Johnson Turner and her Parents Against Violence members over the course of several months. Parents Against Violence Foundation was founded on March 1, 2004, by Johnson-Turner as a result of the anguish she experienced when her 20-year old son, Rodreckus DeAndrew Johnson, was shot and killed while attending a birthday party. In order to cope, she and her members, women who have also lost loved ones to gun violence, are on a personal mission to prevent other deaths.
ERIC ESSIX: AT HOME. Jazz is often traced to the Big Easy; but defining its shape is anything but easy. So when the filmmaker set out to chronicle (in a one-hour documentary) chart-topping, record-breaking jazz guitarist Eric Essix, he ignored the occasional boxy documentary format and instead let Essix loose with his red Gibson hollow-body. The program follows Essix as produces Abide with Me.
TRYING TIMES: PERRY COUNTY SCHOOLS. With 52% of Perry County Alabama’s children living in poverty, the four schools educating those children are equally suffering impoverished hardships. “Trying Times: Perry County Schools,” portrays the humanized effect of Alabama’s legislative pitfalls and repercussions from September 10th, 2003’s, failed Amendment One (A Statewide Tax Reform Plan) education budget .
MOMENTS OF DIGNITY. Booker T. Washington established the photography department at Tuskegee Institute in the early 1900s, Cornelius Marion Battey was its first instructor, and P.H. Polk was Battey’s protégé. Discover Polk’s vivid, evocative photographs and see the unique perspective of Alabama life created by African American photographers at Tuskegee.
STILL HOLDING ON: THE MUSIC OF DOROTHY LOVE COATES AND THE ORIGINAL GOSPEL HARMONETTES. Birmingham’s Dorothy Love Coates was a vibrant performer, a prolific composer, and played a major role in shaping contemporary African American sacred music and worship services. During her 50-year career she wrote and published over 300 songs, recorded 20 albums, and her music has been recorded by musicians such as Mahalia Jackson, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, The Blackwood Brothers, Rev. James Cleveland, Buddy Rich, and the Statesmen Quartet.
I SHALL NOT BE MOVED: THE LEGACY OF W.C. PATTON. This program profiles 84 year-old civil rights activist, W.C. Patton. When Alabama banned the NAACP in 1956, Patton became the organization’s national voter education director and conducted crucial registration and education campaigns, before the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
THE LOWNDES COUNTY FREEDOM PARTY. The Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland in 1966, but it traces its roots to rural Lowndes County in Alabama. This program remembers the efforts of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in this forgotten outpost in the civil rights struggle.