Fannie Lou Hamer I had the pleasure of learning about Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer when I was a junior in college at Duke University. I was taking a course about the cross section of the Civil Rights and Feminist movements, and Kay Mills’ book This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer was required reading. As I sat in this classroom at an elite school, I was in awe of a woman who had a 6th grade education, and was able to challenge and unnerve the political elite – all the way up to the presidency.
When I set out to do this film as a director, my goal was to both recognize the past, acknowledge the present and provide suggestions on how to move forward in the future. Since the completion of this film, I have had the privilege of speaking at different venues, adding to the dialogue about restoring an important landmark to the remarkable woman who was Mary Church Terrell. Mrs. Mary Church Terrell was an accomplished woman whose story reveals a tenacity and shrewdness that made her a powerful agent of change.
Creating a film around two talented and humble artists, Linwood Smith and Sharon Frazier, was pure joy. Often, the people who are the most reluctant to talk have something powerful to say. Linwood Smith and Sharon Frazier, lifelong artists, create dioramas reflecting the evolution of the city from where they grew up. Their designs are made out of passion, nostalgia, and a desire to preserve history. Within the origins of Alexandria, Jim Crow’s presence was there.
Heads turned, mouths whispered, others just stared. When Odessa Madre entered a room, she got a reaction. It was more than just her ample girth. Yes, at 260 pounds, she had a frame that caught glances. Of course, her floor length mink coat and matching hat, a luxury nearly impossible for Blacks to afford in the 1930s and 1940s, garnered stares laced with envy. However, it was her reputation as a notorious numbers runner, and the success in which she ran the game, that made Odessa feared, revered, and unforgettable.
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