Last Thursday, March 26th, Sub/urban Justice youth leader Mary and I went to see a documentary showing at the Harvard Law School. The movie, called this Little Light of Mine, illustrated the life and significance of Fannie Lou Hamer, one of the many unsung female heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. Although there were numerous Harvard students, alumni, and faculty in attendance, most of the people in attendance were locals from the greater Boston area, many of whom were involved in the Civil Rights activism in the city. The filmmaker, Robin Hamilton, was present as well and was featured on a panel of Harvard professors after we watched the movie.
The general audience consensus was that This Little Light of Mine was an excellent film. But its greatness is not in the biological elements of her life that she captures: Hamer’s leadership of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, her experience with police brutality, or her being one of 20 children in rural Mississippi. It is in the fact that Fannie Lou Hamer’s spirit really shines throughout the film’s 30-minute long duration. Her passion for justice, her humility, and her zeal are captured so spectacularly in this documentary that when the credits started rolling, we all felt like Fannie Lou Hamer was in the room with us. We got to be very intimate with Hamer, bearing witness to her ability to command the attention of the media and president Lyndon B. Johnson in the segments where she faced off with him. Her confronting LBJ during the 1964 Democratic Convention and her sharply stating “we ain’t come all this way for just 2 seats” was the heart of the movie and incredibly haunting. Her powerful speaking was so undeniable that LBJ was a complete nervous wreck in her presence.
Another of the movie’s strength is that it is honest about the pushback she received. It displays ample courage, not shying away from showing her scars from the brutal beatings she received at the hands of the police. That moment further illustrates how much she was able to make the personal political and vice versa. She really lived the struggle and witnessing that was truly inspiring for me, as someone who is engaging in anti-racism work in my day-to-day.
The post-movie discussion was filled with universal praise for the movie. It really reenergized people to engage with the struggle to preserve our voting rights. We must register to vote, but also have something to vote for.