A Lifetime of Change

DVD: Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement — This monumental 1987 PBS documentary has just returned to the home market, finally on DVD. And it’s almost an understatement to call it essential. The six-part film traces the American civil rights movement from 1954 to 1965 through documentary footage and interviews (a second edition that debuted in 1990, America at the Racial Crossroads, covers 1964 to ’83, and remains unreleased on DVD), combining both a “you are there” sense of history with the later perspective of both movement leaders and major figures opposed to integration as well as other pivotal figures. It begins with the murder of Emmett Till and the Montgomery bus boycott and ends with the Selma riots and subsequent successful march to Montgomery, spotlighting the growth of the movement. Especially relevant today are the leading role of students in the struggle for voting rights and equality and the emphasis on nonviolence, as both seem sadly absent from what passes for any leftist and progressive movement. It’s both a highly educational document as well as an inspiring viewing experience. As this writer was born in 1954, the year this film begins, I can’t help but marvel at how far we’ve come with an African-American now in the White House. And I also bemoan how much still remains to be accomplished, given the thinly disguised as well as outright racist tones swirling within the opposition to Barack Obama. It’s a superb work of documentary filmmaking that captures the tenor and tension of the times, and ultimately an inspirational work that should be seen by everyone interested in social change and the most important domestic American political and social movement of the 20th Century. (I’d also recommend as a companion Taylor Branch’s trilogy of books covering the same history: Parting the Waters, Pillar of Fire and At Canaan’s Edge.)

CD: Gente! by SambaDá — One of the enjoyable things about my work as a music PR writer is how I come to be acquainted with and help promote some utterly wonderful acts. And this eight-person multi-gender and ethnic group out of Santa Cruz, Calif., offers one of the most interesting, delightful and ultimately butt-shaking wrinkles in world music today. Centered around native Brazilian singer, songwriter and guitarist Papiba Godinho and fellow Brazilian singer Dandha Da Hora, SambaDá also draws from such diverse strains as reggae, surf music and even klezmer to create a genuine Brazilian-American world music melting pot. And damn, if you don’t feel compelled to dance to it, time for a heart and soul check.

From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2010


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