Marquis Theater to host Vermont’s first anti-racism film series

MIDDLEBURY — Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and Middlebury’s Marquis Theater are teaming up to present a film series aimed at tackling some of society’s most pernicious ills — racism and white supremacy.
The Marquis Theater first worked with the Middlebury chapter of SURJ to show the James Baldwin documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” last March. The four sold out showings raised hundreds of dollars for Black Lives Matter Vermont, and more importantly helped educate the community about white supremacy and the many ways it manifests in the United States.
“Since over 500 people showed up to see this film, it showed us there is a real hunger in the community to learn more about some of the most shameful parts of American history,” said Kathy Comstock, a SURJ organizer who spearheaded the event. “Now we are thrilled to bring six more films that all deal with a different aspect of racial identity and how race permeates every part of American culture, from the world of rock and roll to the history of interracial marriage.”
Marquis Theater owner Ben Wells is thrilled to be presenting what may be the state of Vermont’s first ever Racial Justice Film Series. “Seeing movies brings us together as a community and can show us aspects of ourselves that may have been hidden. We are very lucky to have so many amazing films to choose from.”
Seeing Color/Seeking Justice, A Racial Identities/Racial Justice Film Series will be showing movies on the first Wednesday of each month, beginning Nov. 1. Screenings will take place at 4 and 7 p.m.
The first film in the series, “Rumble,” tells the story of the Native American influence on one of America’s great gifts to the world — rock and roll. The film engagingly lifts the veil on Native Americans’ role in several generations of pop music, and traces their involvement from the Delta blues and jazz eras up to present-day hip hop.
Moviegoers will also have a unique opportunity to hear some Native American music performed live. At 5:30 p.m., between the two film showings, Bryan Blanchette of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki will perform some traditional and contemporary Abenaki songs.
Another SURJ organizer, Joanna Colwell, said the film series perfectly fits the fledgling racial justice organization’s two pronged mission. “We work to educate the community about white supremacy and the ways it harms everyone, AND to raise funds for people of color led organizations in Vermont. The fact that Vermont is one of the whitest states may be the best reason ever to show films that highlight the lived experiences of people of color.”
The money raised from showing “Rumble” will support the Vermont Abenaki Tribe’s efforts to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day in the state of Vermont. In 2016, then Governor Peter Shumlin proclaimed Columbus Day to be Indigenous People’s Day, but that was only for that specific year. Native people in Vermont want the change to be permanent. “Columbus Day for us is not a celebration but a day of mourning,” said Don Stevens, Chief of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki.
The second film in the series, to be shown on Wednesday, Dec. 6, is “Loving.” The film tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the plaintiffs in the 1967 Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. There will not be a showing in January, but the film series will resume in February.

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