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Arts & Ideas screens ‘Till’ in honor of Black History Month


Movie screen showing man holding flyer for Emmett Till funeral
Emma Lyons / THE GATEPOST

By Bella Omar

Asst. Arts & Features Editor


On Feb. 21 Arts & Ideas and the Division of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement (DICE) hosted a screening of Chinonye Chukwu’s “Till” in Dwight Performing Arts Center with a post-film discussion as part of the Arthur Nolletti Jr. Film Series.


“Till,” released in 2022, follows the true story of Mamie Till-Bradley (played by Danielle Deadwyler), whose pursuit of justice for the murder of her 14-year-old son Emmett Till (played by Jalyn Hall) in 1955 became a cornerstone of the Civil Rights Movement and the beginning of her activism.


This story of strength aligns perfectly with the Arts & Ideas theme for the 2023-24 academic year, “Courage + Resilience.”


This screening is one of several campus events hosted in honor of Black History Month. 


After the screening, Sally Shafto, film studies professor, introduced Jon Huibregtse, history professor, who thanked the attendees and began the discussion by quoting Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.


“‘If we’re to continue to move forward as a nation, we cannot allow the concerns about discomfort to displace knowledge, truth, and history,’ and that is equally true for watching a film like ‘Till’ that we just saw,” he said.


Emmett Till was murdered “almost 10 years to the day after the end of World War II, and it was during World War II that African Americans really mobilized a great deal to fight for civil rights,” Huibregtse said.


A few months after the events depicted in “Till” took place, “Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery [Alabama] for not giving up her seat, and she said that she was thinking of Emmett Till when she refused to give up her seat on that bus, which is the event most consider kind of the start of the Civil Rights Movement,” Huibregtse said.


Senior English major Hannah Jones was introduced and said, “This film, to me, is very spiritual. My initial reaction when watching the film, I was very distraught emotionally. I actually cried in the theater watching it. I realized a lot of the metaphoric implications are still resonating today. Mamie Till really highlighted the Black female experience.


“She also really highlighted toward the end of the film how her close mindedness could have prevented Emmett from being harmed, how hate wasn’t something she could control. But also how love for ourselves should not be erased because of that hate - that really stuck with me,” said Jones.


Jerome Burke, director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence (CIE), took the floor and said, “I know that for us it was shocking to see Emmett’s photo, and as shocking as it was, I thought it was very important. And I remember George Floyd.


“We have to capture these moments that we have, to have people watch and see what it was. You can only imagine how it was for that person and their immediate family,” he added.


Jeffrey Coleman, vice president for DICE, said, “This film was very disturbing. I think what was most disturbing to me was at the end of the film - the narrative about how the individuals, the two white men and the white woman who were responsible for the murder, were never prosecuted - 1955 was not really that long ago.”


Attendees were then invited to the CIE for food and drink, where Burke said, “One of the things that I hope students will get from it is don’t only be shocked by what you’re seeing happening around you.


“Try to figure out how you can lend your voice for that and advocate. How you can speak up, how you can create a community that is also just as passionate as you are, and champion that energy into a greater cause,” he said.

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