Great Barrington — In support of the National School Walkout protest planned for April 20, in which a number of local schools and colleges will participate to protest the continuing incidents of gun violence, The Berkshire Edge and The Green Tea Party of Great Barrington are offering a free screening of “The Children’s March,” the Oscar-winning documentary by Bobby Houston depicting the historic Children’s March of 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, that galvanized the Civil Rights movement to end segregation in the South.
Introduced by Houston, the film will be shown Sunday, April 15, at 4 p.m. at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, with a discussion following during which youth will be encouraged to discuss the implications of those civil rights demonstrations in 1963 in light of the mass shootings that are afflicting the nation today, and particularly its schools, most recently with the massacre of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14.
“For anybody who’s wondering if it really might be different this time, if the kids of Parkland might actually beat the gun lobby, the answer is yes,” Houston insists. “Do not underestimate the power of a children’s march to transform a stalled movement — because it happened once before.
“We watch these massacres happen over and over again and we’re told there’s nothing you can do,” explains Houston, now a resident of Great Barrington. “Toddlers, churchgoers. 26 dead, 49 dead, 58 dead and 581 injured. Nothing we can do. And then along come the kids from Parkland and they fight back and I think, ‘Wait a minute, I’ve seen this movie…’ Because I made this movie! In 1963, the kids of Birmingham changed history when the adults said no. The kids saved the Civil Rights Movement.”
“Thursday May 2 1963 was the Big Bang of the 60’s, when student protest first took to the streets. And if you look at the 60’s — the idealism of kids, using music, fashion, and rebellion to change everything — it all started at noon on a school day in Birmingham Alabama when the kids walked out of school. Or jumped out the windows! Whatever it took.”
“The Children’s March,” co-produced in 2005 by The Southern Law Poverty Center and HBO, is in current use as a teaching tool by Teaching Tolerance and the Zinn Education Project. The film won an Oscar in the documentary film category.
“This is a film for every parent, too,” Houston adds, “that is OK for every kid in America to walk out of school to protest gun violence on the 19thanniversary of the Columbine High School massacre that took 24 lives. By next Friday, every school kid in America will have had to think three times about how the tolerance for guns has torn apart the fabric of this country: The Parkland shooting on February 14, the nationwide March for Our Lives on March 24, and now the national school walkout. We are creating a generation that is awakened. This is another moment when we, as a people, have to decide where we stand.”