The People Speak 7

It was my great pleasure to witness a historic event, the filming of the Race segment of The People Speak – a film based on the text, A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.  The segment I attended was filmed at 2 pm yesterday at Emerson Majestic Theatre.

Those of us who attended heard the heartfelt words of Howard Zinn, ever the teacher and rabble-rouser.  Producer Chris Moore shared his passion for the project with the audience.  He got the project off the ground after discussing it for a decade or so with his buds, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.  We also got to see celebrities read works from some of the greatest activists and change-agents over the course of American History.  The celebs were Danny Glover, Jasmine Guy, David Strathoirn, Q’Orianka Kilcher, Reg E. Cathey, Darryl McDaniels (of Run DMC fame), Staceyann Chin, Kerry Washington, Michael Ealy, Martin Espada.

We were treated to musical performances by Q’Orianka Kilcher and John Legend – who did a moving rendition of “No More Auction Block” and “Mississippi Goddamn.”

Marisa Tomei and Viggo Mortensen introduced the readings of words from Malcolm X, John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer, Yuri Kuchiyama, John Brown, David Walker, Chief Joseph, Public Enemy and Sojourner Truth (among others).

Reg Cathey and Michael Ealy, both of whom are appearing in the final season of The Wire on HBO currently, were far and away the most stirring readers.  It was clear that getting all the actors together had been a huge undertaking and that there’d been little time to rehearse – if any.

Some of the actors didn’t have the depth for a couple of the readings, some stumbled (leading to re-shoots), some mumbled, and there were a couple of technical glitches,  but these are small concerns.  The nearly three hours of taping were riveting.  I wish that every student in this country could have witnessed the event and I hope the movie will extend the reach of the book. 

I am certain that once the editing is completed, the production will be stunning because the words, ideas, and passion that these historical people lived are incredibly powerful and relevant even over the distance of decades.  The history they provide can’t change and the injustices they wrote about haven’t changed, even if some have been corrected or morphed into new forms.

Power and wealth still go hand-in-hand in this country, The stories that the media promotes and the voices that are given broad publicity are still not those of the great thinkers, activists or change agents or  those of ordinary people having to become extraordinary by fighting for their rights.

I remember hearing someone say once, “If you want to know about me, ask me.”  If you want to know the true history of a nation, listen to the stories, memories and testimony of the people.  Thank you, Howard Zinn, for compiling these voices into one volume.  Thank you, Chris Moore, for green lighting your own project. Thank you to all of the actors who worked for scale and participated in this project.   I will remember this event until I die.

About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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