March 31, 2006
By MELISSA PIONZIO, Courant Staff Writer
A group of Fox Middle School students
joked and laughed as they entered the Real Art Ways theater in Parkville
Some glanced curiously around the funky,
low-lit space; others suggested that the visit might be boring.
But as images of Rosa Parks and the 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott
flashed across the screen, the middle schoolers got quiet.
The film, "Mighty Times, the Legacy
of Rosa Parks," contained things the students said they already
knew. It showed blacks in the 1950s working hard as maids, seamstresses,
day laborers and cab drivers. It showed how they lived, ate and
were educated separately; from how they paid to ride the bus only
to have to cram together in the back as seats in the front remained
But what many of the children said
they had forgotten was the unity the black community displayed,
even as the discrimination and violence against them intensified.
"It was very emotional,"
Phillip Campbell 14, said of the film. "If more people came
and saw this movie, a lot of gang violence and stuff that is going
on in the streets wouldn't be happening. ... You see a lot of people
going against each other, fighting about territory and none of it
The film is part of Real Art Ways'
"Film Field Trips" program, which has drawn more than
2,500 Hartford students since October.
"We thought this [film] would
be very striking for Hartford students because it is very segregated
here, not only in our schools but in our neighborhoods," said
Robyn Whittington, a program manager at Real Art Ways. "The
purpose of the civil rights movement was to create change. ...We
want to get them to begin to ask questions, to create that spark."
After the film, during a question-and-answer
period, the children shared reactions ranging from pity to anger
"They were inspirational people
who set out to make a difference and make the way for how we live
now," 13-year-old Kenneth Wilson said. "We really got
to have a team. If you work by yourself, who's going to hear you?"
Bill Harris, an independent diversity
facilitator and trainer, asked the children about their own challenges,
which they said include peer pressure, violence, drug dealers and
Together they discussed strategies
on dealing with these issues and, through it all, Harris talked
of the peace and the power of leading by example.
"We are trying to get them to
see they don't have to fight back, they can deal with things in
a peaceful way," said Kara Gagliarducci, who is studying the
civil rights movement with her seventh- and eighth-grade English
students. "They can see it, but when it comes to their own
lives, it's hard for them."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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