Saved from our past by the arts in our present
The Loving Story is a documentary focused on Richard and Mildred Loving and the landmark 1967 Loving vs Virginia Supreme Court case that led to legalization of interracial marriage in all states. This was screened for Charlottesville area high school and middle school students as part of the Virginia Film Festival which celebrates its 26th year this weekend.
Of the screening, Festival directors recall, “the students couldn’t believe that a mixed-race couple would be breaking the law.” They invited the lawyer who argued this case before the Supreme Court in 1968 to come talk to the children and also the Loving’s daughter, Peggy, to tell them what her experience was like. “The kids gave them a standing ovation,” the directors wrote. Every time I think about this it brings tears to my eyes.
To kids, history is just an old story. Something that happened once upon a time.When they can see it – see how people were, how people thought, how people acted – and feel it – feel how people were mistreated, neglected, denied, disenfranchised, they’re changed. When they can see how little sense it made “back then” and realize the “back then” was not so long ago, we’ve got their attention. They stand and applaud people who had the courage to change what was wrong, even as they faced incredible hardship and long odds.
This is what the arts do. They help us see the unseen, hear the unheard, and make sense of it all. They give us eyes to see and ears to hear in a new way. A more expansive way. A more inclusive way. This seems a better way. The arts make things approachable and tangible. They allow us to discuss them around a common table.
Too often we find ourselves telling our old stories, expecting the “younger generation” to learn from us. Our old stories are not pristine. In fact, many are tarnished and worn. But we must tell them in a way that opens eyes and ears around a common table because that is how we can find common ground to make new ones.
Our world needs new stories. Stories of loving that may not be lovely. We may need to start with history but if we are to learn from it, we need the arts.
Posted on November 8, 2013, in Body, In Action, Life and tagged arts, Charlottesville, common table, documentary, film, history, Loving vs Virginia, mentoring, Storytelling, Virginia Film Festival, younger generation. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.